Freedom of Choice In Games


#1

So, I’ve been developing Wastelander for a while now and wanted to take a survey on how many of you would like to play a game with virtually unlimited choice in a game. For you to encounter a choice on every page that might determine your future. Would you play a game like that?


#2

Maybe. Depends on whether the futures stayed interesting – which is hard to write when every page is supposed to make a difference. Within a few pages, you’re needing to write a thousand futures…


#3

But what if those choices could lead to a smaller choice which in turn, could lead to a bigger consequence?


#4

I think that it would be amazing, but only if those choices would make some sense and/or a difference of how we are perceived by others/our worldview. For example our outer appearance or our mannerisms/characteristics. Nevertheless I hope that that you will try to create a great game :smile:.


#5

I don’t know, I feel like if you did that then a lot of the choices would be unnecessary choices if that makes sense, like the choices that no matter which you pick it’ll lead to the same outcome, it was just there to give a choice. I actually am alright with how most games handle the choices, at least a choice every five pages or so.

But also, and this is probably just me, I feel like if every choice was crucially important I’d spend more time restarting and worried about my choices than actually enjoying the game.


#6

Oh, trust me. Every single choice you make will affect others too, even your companions.


#7

But isn’t that the whole idea of a text based game? Nevertheless, the way I’m making my game will both be enjoyable and a tad worrying.


#8

Contrary to expectation, more choice isn’t always good - there’s a certain “sweet spot” for choices, over which people become so overwhelmed with the possibilities they can no longer perform the mental calculations required for a meaningful choice. This choice paralysis generally results in lessened satisfaction regardless of the outcome, because the person choosing wasn’t able to confidently identify their preferred option. For example, it’s hard to settle on the TV channel you’d like to watch when there are 250 to choose from. Offering the range of choice you plan can very well lead to players feeling too restless to enjoy the game, too busy wondering if the other option would be better.

As for “fake choices” - arguably there is no such thing as a “real choice”, since all of them are limited pre-programmed responses created by the developers. So the aim is to create the illusion of choice, making the “fake choice” feel like something the player picked for themselves.
I recommend checking out this episode of Extra Credits, discussing this concept and more about branching narrative from a game dev’s perspective. There’s also this episode about the variety of choices you can incorporate in games, and the difference between a meaningful choice and a calculated decision.