Do you like to lose?

So, this thought came about after playing the WIP of Honour Bound by the amazing @HannahPS and coming across a choice where I literally couldn’t win. As in it was testing all of the opposing stats in the game and I had just happened to choose the opposite of every choice available.

I discovered that I was surprisingly disheartened by this (to be clear, this isn’t a dig at Hannah, Honour Bound is shaping up to be just as good as the rest of the Creme de la Creme series) and I’m not really sure why. I’ve since realised that much of my interaction with IF over the more recent past has been finding ways to AVOID failing. It started with save game plugins and progressed to stat editing. I don’t dislike narrative failure, I’m fine with my character being knocked down a peg or two by a big bad, but failure in choices is another thing entirely.

My question for other readers: Is this a common feeling? If you know you are going to fail a choice no matter what option you pick does it make you like a game less? Will you restart a game (like I have before) simply to avoid failing a choice? Or do you enjoy seeing the fail states that authors create?

And for authors: How much do you take into consideration failure? Do you want or expect readers to fail at certain places? How much effort do you put into the alternate text for failure and do people like me piss you off that work so hard to avoid it completely?

How do you feel about failure in interactive fiction?

  • I love failing - it lets me see different aspects of characters!
  • It’s fine - as long as it doesn’t result in a bad ending.
  • Not my cup of tea - if I can avoid it I will.
  • Never even once - I will go out of my way to avoid failing a choice.
0 voters
8 Likes

I hate to fail in games but I still will play it when the game is to my liking and has great characters and a good story. (Lol if I know I don’t have a chance to win I’ll play the game on my browser on my computer, so I can bring up the console and change my variables, like strength, intelligence and so on…)

8 Likes

I don’t like to fail a choice, but I can bear it more if it feels like failing has led to something interesting. Feeling like you missed out on a good moment because you failed is the worst.

22 Likes

I don’t mind failing if there’s a chance I can correct my mistake(s) or go back and make a slightly different choice without radically changing my game. Games like Lost Heir that hoe the shit out of you with bogus stat checks are not my cup of tea, though.

6 Likes

I think being angry at losing is too ingrained in my personality to ever enjoy failing. Although, failing a stat check is very enjoyable if I can continue going. The most fun ive ever had in a choice game was im College Tennis and Path of the Martial artist. In those games, failing gave me a sort of rush to beat the other guy that ive never felt before in a choice game.

All in all, i think I like failing in small ways in the moment, like failing to dodge a punch, and am not too fond of fails that impact the story greatly, if that makes any sense.

6 Likes

I think the ability to have entertaining failures is one of the reasons I love some cog/hg so much (thinking Kreg Segall’s works, FH series, etc.).

5 Likes

Needs an other option :slight_smile: I think its fine as long as it serves the storyline well and doesn’t cause an abrupt game over without a redo. I don’t mind bad endings either if it’s a good story. I don’t particularly love or hate them, it all depends on how the storyline is structured.

13 Likes

For me, it depends on objective. When I play to win, I expect to win and won’t settle for failure. However, once I’ve been satisfied, I go back and check out the failure options on purpose, for the sake of exploration. That’s why I love cheap options. They serve to immediately satisfy my desire to win, allowing me to replay and mess around for the fun.

3 Likes

I’m fine with losing if I had the opportunity to invest in that thing enough to have succeeded at it, and I just invested elsewhere instead. If I took the options to gear my character towards swordery to the exclusion of everything else, I understood when I made that decision that punplomacy was something I would very likely lose at if it came up. I just hope that having low punplomacy isn’t going to end my playthrough, it’s just going to take me down a different narrative pipeline than if I was good at it, and vice versa.

I don’t like it when I’m as good as I could possibly be at a thing and I still somehow fail, as in, this stat goes from 1 to 99, I have 99 (or the realistic maximum for that particular moment given the actual available opportunities to raise it up to the point of the choice), and I still lose. The exception here is if there were narrative decisions I could have made to turn that failure into a success. Like, okay, sure, I’m going against the best tomato slicer in the world. My tomato slicing can only go to 99, and they have the unattainable 100th point. I can’t slice tomatoes better than them on even footing. But if I at some point had the optional ability to sabotage their cutlery, or alternatively had the option to have become friends with someone who because of that fashioned me the ultimate chef’s knife, and either of those would have made it so that the check goes from failing at 99 to failing at 90 and succeeding at 91+, I’d be fine with that.

I would prefer for there not to be a false choice where the deck isn’t just stacked against me- there is no winning card. If you want me to fail so much that you are putting me in a no-win scenario, don’t make me feel like winning was ever an option. Don’t make me make a choice and pretend that different circumstances or a different choice could have changed the outcome. If you want to have the character fail but have there be a difference between failing at 10 in the stat vs failing with 80 in the stat, make that a hidden check that happens in the background that the player doesn’t see. Don’t give me a choice that says “I cast sword (swordery)” if that is never going to succeed no matter my swordery skill level. Just tell me a thing is happening out of my control and give me something else to do with my choice that feels meaningful and gives me agency in spite of the otherwise no-win scenario.

My basic rule of thumb in tabletop is: Don’t put it to a roll if failure isn’t interesting or if winning isn’t possible. I feel like that’s pretty widely applicable.

All of that said, I really prefer winning. :sweat_smile:

12 Likes

FOMO is definitely a part of it. Even if it’s just a small moment with a character, I don’t want to miss it because I failed a stat check.

This is an interesting thought. Though I still tend to use stat editing in these types of games, it’s true that I don’t mind failing a stat check or two during a single match if it means I can still win the game. I feel very differently in dialogue and narrative sections though. I always feel like failing any stat check there means I’m “missing” the good part, even if it is only a small bit.

This is possibly a self reinforcing cycle for me. I don’t like to fail, so I rarely see failure done well or in an interesting way, so I avoid failing because it’s boring and not fun.

I feel like most people would agree with this. Putting in a literal no win choice would be a dick move. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a CoG or HG product before. And yeah, like I said, I’m okay with a narrative failure. Sometimes you need the protagonist to take a hit,.

2 Likes

Never played Sergi?

His are some of the older ones, so I don’t think I’ve replayed them since I started stat editing. If that exists in things like the Heroes Rise series it’s entirely possible I thought I had just screwed up and not gotten the stats right and never bothered to replay them.

1 Like

Not interactive fiction, but I’m curious if you’ve ever played Disco Elysium and if you have any thoughts on that with respect to this.

3 Likes

I don’t mind failing. I’ll play the failing choice once just to see how the outcome. The fun in IF for me is seeing the consequences of my choices. If it leads to a bad ending, that just means I have more endings to unlock.

Also going through a failing choice means I know what to avoid in the replay.

3 Likes

Not Disco Elysium but in a somewhat similar vein when I played BG3 I used a mod to cheat dice rolls on everything outside of combat. I hate having a character trained exclusively in a skill fail due to random chance.

I’ll have to give it a go. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard good things.

5 Likes

Gotcha. I would say that Disco is an experience to try if you want to challenge your conceptions of success and failure. I have a feeling it will be uncomfortable, but it is my best example of a game that truly makes things interesting no matter how the coin flips.

1 Like

Unless it’s a skill my character is meant to be good at, I don’t mind too much.

Depends on failure (minor failures are minor), but I like writing alternate scenes and at some points alternate paths… so yes, I’m worried nobody will see them is nobody is willing to fail.

I’m sorry, what is this? PR with clever wordplay?

3 Likes

As I said, Punplomacy was my dumpstat. All I can tell you is that if you want to get into it, avoid Atoms and Kleptomaniacs. Atoms make up everything, and Kleptos take everything, literally.

1 Like

I hate, I hate failures and I can tolerate them only if an author can write it in such a way that it does not feel that much as failure, and more, hm, as opportunity? Finding out new information, challenges, new interesting scenes? Fallen Hero is the only good example I know.

If a game has too many (so more than 1 for me xd) failures that I can’t avoid in any way, I give up reading. Especially if failure is written the way it is very humiliating for MC…

8 Likes

I don’t particularly like failing, but I can roll with it. However, it has to be fair; it shouldn’t result in early ending; extra points if the outcome is just as interesting (fail forward) as winning.

1 Like