Immersion or Comfort?


#1

I am making considerable progress in my game which I think is nearly ready to announce, perhaps after the holidays. If you’ve followed my other threads I believe I previously stated I was at about 17,000 words 2 weeks ago. Today I am at about 30,000 words. As I have been writing and getting feedback from the community, however, I have developed ideas even further so I would say the game is still only about 1/2 finished.

I am writing today to ask you all what your opinion is on conditional choices, for example, stat rolls. Do you find a game more enjoyable if the choices stay immersive or if the choice flat out tells you that you need a Strength skill of 8 to succeed?

NOTE: I will not let the player die unexpectedly. That pisses me off.
If there is a chance the player may die from preforming a certain action I explicitly made sure to hint that toward the player.

For example, what if you were in the following scenario?

Your path around the cliff is blocked by a fallen boulder and the bandits are quickly gaining on you.
   #Try and push the boulder aside.
   #Attempt to climb over it.
   #Stand and fight.

There are three possible ways to approach this. Would you prefer the most immersion by having the choices read like that or would you prefer the choice to only be selectable if you know you will succeed?

Or would you prefer the method I am currently implementing which is somewhat of an in-between by having all the choices selectable, but having a note after them that gives a general range the player should be in to succeed? Example:

   #Try and push the boulder aside. (High Strength)
   #Attempt to climb over it. (Moderate Agility)
   #Stand and fight.

#2

I think the answer to that question is whether the game lets you “fail forward.”

That is, if you fail, does the story then continue in some interesting fashion, or are you simply punished for the failure in some way? If your narrative can roll with failing a test, then that’s not even really a failure–that’s just fun, and then you can roleplay rather than having to check a number to see if your idea of “moderate agility” matching my idea of it.

So I would say that if failing a test leads somewhere cool, then give me all the choices. If not, then I don’t need to see choices that I will fail.


#3

I feel like the immersion should be the best option. Graying out options takes the game feeling out of it, while the in-between would give the false idea of success. For example: I have 38% Agility, while the Moderate Agility option requires 45%, i do believe that 38% is moderate, although your idea of moderate is 45%. If failing would lead me to a different branch of the story (and hopefully raises my agility), that would be acceptable, if not and i just die, i’d be annoyed.


#4

As the story progresses I slowly try to introduce the players to what levels are considered Low, Moderate, and High, etc. by giving the player options and being extremely forgiving, i.e. the player exceeds anyway, but not how they intended or they just don’t do what they wanted and move on, but I don’t blatantly say Low = 2, for instance. As the game progresses, however, the repercussions get more severe, obviously, as I expect the player to have an idea of what Low means and what Moderate means based off of past experiences. And as I said, if the player might die I make sure that is clear beforehand. But in this game High Risk = High Reward :wink:


#5

I prefer more storyish CoGs/narrative games. The usual game mechanic for COG is pick one skill, focus on it for the entire game, and choose that skill every time the game asks you to do something even though you might think another method may be better. That’s not the best method in my opinion. I prefer it when you can succeed in whatever you choose (or at least not fail directly because of stats) and the difference between the choices is what your character would do.

To answer your question:
As long as it’s obvious as to what skill relates to what choice, you don’t need warnings. If it is not obvious, people will complain, so warnings would be good.


#6

I prefer immersion because it lets me roleplay as I see fit rather than making me worry about min-maxing my stats from the get go. New players should at least be given a chance to play blind and worry-free from such stuff. If you’re going to let us know what changes what or what rolls are checked then you could always implement a “New Game+” with the corresponding verboses on each choice.

Or you could do nothing at all because people who want to min-max usually do so by keeping an eye on the stat window and restarting anew or reloading… so for that effect I suggest you implement a saving system first. It sucks having to restart when something goes wrong and the game punishes you for it.


#7

Oh, you won’t need to worry about min-maxing different skills… laughs maniacally


#8

This is something I was discussing with @TSSL earlier, and it’s the reason why I like the Lost Heir games and dislike Krendrickstone (well, one of the reasons): It’s very easy to fail in both, but in the Lost Heir the failures (at least, the ones I got) were still enjoyable to read, while in Krendrickstone, the never-ending failure basically got very boring after a while.

This is very much not the best method. If there’s only one option that will work for any particular character, it’s not a roleplaying game, it’s an answer-guessing game, and your choices don’t matter (beyond the first one, which picks what stat you’ll be using). In addition, I feel that at least one option should always let you continue the game without any kind of stat check, as it’s not fun to try every option before discovering that none of them work for the character you’ve built.

Also, if you’re going to let the player die, there should really be a checkpoint system. It may be a little immersion-breaking, but in my opinion, it’s worth it to avoid the frustration of creating a character, leading them through several hours of plot, before losing them because you picked an option which the writer considered “wrong”.


#9

All good things to hear. I’m really excited to announce my upcoming game because I agree with everything you guys are saying and I’ve written this story to be unique and not a traditional RPG. I hope people realize the examples I give in all my threads are not taken from my game. My fear is that it is so nontraditional that it may not be for some people, but I hope everyone gives it a chance.

I don’t think I will implement a checkpoint system, but I think it would be advantageous for me to further write death into the game. Though death is not supposed to happen, I could fairly easily write it in as part of the plot and keep the immersion going. Though you would still have to start over, it wouldn’t completely break your immersion. Kind of like how Darksouls handles it, except not that at all. Do you think this would be more fun or do you think its better death not be in CoG at all?

I’m holding out on announcing it just a little while longer until I get the plot fully fleshed out.
Things to do before announcement:

  • Come up with a name (May get community input later).
  • Finish writing the final chapters.
  • Decide how I want death to be handled.
  • Decide how I want it to end.

#10

I always felt that death in a game as a sign of lack of imagination of the designer, or a way to artificially lengthen a thin story. Failure on the other hand, failure is fun, failure is painful, failure can be hilarious.

It requires more work and choices, but I like the games that lets you fail forward.


#11

I agree with @malinryden. (big fan of Fallen Hero BTW)

In other media…mostly the non-interactive ones…main characters fail all the time, and the story doesn’t stop. They have to deal with the consequences of their failure, and it can make the characters feel more real, and the stories more compelling.

Mass Effect 3, for all it’s flaws, did one thing really right. There was one mission that you inevitably failed, and Shepard and her crew have to deal with the emotional, and practical fallout of that failure. It was, for me, one of the best moments of that game.


#12

I agree with all the comments on the importance of “failing forward.” Then I wrote altogether too much about it, since it wasn’t really the subject of conversation in the first place.

So I'm sticking it inside a details box.

ChoiceScript games offer players far fewer chances to interact with their MC’s environment than a more traditional game like Mass Effect or Skyrim, so failures and Game-Over screens feel more like the developer is insulting the player, and less like the player made a mistake.

Choices where the “right” option causes everything to go in the MC’s favor and the “wrong” options cause everything to turn against the MC only exaggerate this effect.

One way to work around this problem while maintaining “severe consequences” is to change the way consequences work in the first place.

For example, each individual consequence could be relatively small, but could last for a longer and longer time as they become more severe, so that at higher challenge levels the multiple small consequences begin to stack up and combine to hinder the MC. Perhaps there’s a stat for how close the bandits have come to catching the MC. Perhaps passing an obstacle (read: stat check) reduces ${bandit_distance} a small amount, while failing an obstacle reduces it a large amount? And if ${bandit_distance} ever reaches zero, the MC is considered “cornered” and forced to fight.

Perhaps there’s a second stat, representing exhaustion, that goes up the longer the MC runs from the bandits. Perhaps combat with the bandits becomes slightly more difficult as exhaustion goes up, should the MC ever let ${bandit_distance} fall to zero and become “cornered.” Using an exhaustion stat to increase the difficulty of a stat check during combat would be quite simple: instead of *if strength >60 you could use *if strength >(60 + {exhaustion}).

Another way is to harm the MC in a way that doesn’t alter gameplay on a mechanical level, but does alter the player’s emotional interaction with the game. Perhaps instead of a Game Over screen when the bandits win, the MC takes a wicked cut across half her face, and goes blind in that eye. Or loses a finger or two. Permanently.

Mecha Ace features a consequence like that: if the MC’s willpower is too low, she fails a stat check, leading to permanent loss of one hand. While there is a small stat change associated with the injury, it’s so small it has no mechanical effect on the game. The major point is the emotional weight of it — once that check is failed, the hand NEVER returns to normal.

Getting back to the question you asked…

Here’s a thought: Why not both?

Seriously, what about using *if commands within the *choice to present warnings in an immersive way? That is to say, quite literally presenting different options based on the MC’s ability to pass the relevant stat check.

Here's an example using an extra stat to measure how close the bandits are:
Your path around the cliff is blocked by a fallen boulder and the bandits are quickly gaining on you.
*choice
  *if (strength >=65)
    #You should be able to un-balance the boulder and send it rolling down the cliff with ease.
      *set bandit_distance -1
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  *if (strength <65) and (strength >=35)
    #It might take some time, but you should be able to un-balance the boulder enough it rolls on its own.
      *set bandit_distance -5
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  *if (strength <35)
    #That boulder looks completely immobile, but you'll never know if you can roll it unless you try.
      *set bandit_distance -10
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  *if (agility >=40)
    #You should be able to scramble over such an obstacle with ease.
      *set bandit_distance -1
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  *if (agility <40) and (agility >=25)
    #It might take some time, but you should be able to scramble over the boulder.
      *set bandit_distance -5
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  *if (agility <25)
    #That boulder looks completely un-scalable, but you'll never know if you can climb it unless you try.
      *set bandit_distance -10
      *if bandit_distance >0
        *goto keep_running
      *else
        *goto cornered_and_fight
  #If the bandits won't give up, you'll have to put them down.
    *goto stand_and_fight

In that example, I gave each of the actions that call for a stat check three tiers of success, and rewrote the #options to reflect how much closer each choice would let the bandits approach.

Now imagine the MC started running with *temp bandit_distance 12, and encounters two obstacles. First, the boulder that can be passed with high strength or moderate agility. Second… perhaps a fallen tree branch? Something reasonably light and easy to move, but oddly shaped and difficult to climb over, allowing it to be passed with only moderate strength, but requiring high agility.

In that two-obstacle chase, an MC would only be caught if at least one stat check was at the lowest tier of success AND none of the stat checks were at the highest tier of success.

More importantly, they’ll have an understanding about how difficult each action will be before they attempt it, and without a potentially immersion-breaking “requires 60+ strength” plastered all over the #options.


#13

Yes, I do something similar to that in major fights. In “boss” fights it isn’t just:

#Stab
 -5 hp
#Stab
-20 hp
You win!

Although, now that I think about it, a satirical game that makes fun of those mechanics might be fun to write… Anyway getting back on topic.

The fights consists of phases which the player must make choices. The choices have different weights. For instance, if you are strong enough and choose to, let’s just say Kick for now, the kick could keep you ahead. Whereas if you are not strong enough and try to kick, then it hurts the player and the following context informs you that you failed due to a lack of strength, but one failure alone is not enough to cause the player to die. The player must fail multiple phases before he/she loses. AND even before all this, most of the deadly combat in the game is optional. So the player will never just unprecedentedly Game Over.

I still think my original idea of including a comment in the choices regarding the level of stat required, i.e (Moderate Strength) is a happy middle ground, but what I’ve gotten from all this is that most people think the player should be allowed to make that choice even if they will fail, meaning there will not be any grayed-out choices, but make them “fail forward” at least.

Also, the way the story is progressing so far a majority of serious combat is OPTIONAL, you can play the game all the way through without the impending risk of death, just minor penalties, like: “Oh no, you lost some stuff.”

  1. Does my mechanic of combat sound enjoyable?
  2. Do you think I should make the phase-based deadly combat more prevalent or do you like the idea of the more complex/high risk combat being optional?

#14
  1. I don’t know. I’d have to see a sample of it to be sure, but it does sound better than clicking hit 20 times before an enemy dies.

  2. I like optional combat more. RPGs have grinding (which I’m not a fan of usually) and fighting, but they have visuals and animations to break up the repetition. Optional combat appeals to people who like more story-ish games and can be done without hindering the pace of the story. Winter Wolves’ games (Planet Stronghold in the app store and others) are visual novels with optional combat and I thought it worked well :robot: .


#15

NEVER LET THE PLAYER GUESS WAS IS LOW HIGH OR WHATEVER. The only thing you will get is a very pissed and annoyed out of immersion reader. I personally would be very very pissed about it I have 89 in x stat WTF I HAD A PUNISHMENT…FUCK THIS GAME … and then rage quit. If you will tell me what I need to pass THEN BE CLEAR AND PUT THE NUMBERED OUT FRONT. Not be a vague fortune teller and make reader guess in a cristal ball. You always do as Lucid games and let player choose if want read the stats needed for each action or not.

I play for the story, not for fight for fight there are table rpg and games. FIGHTING directly in cog is a pain in the ass. Except is included in narrative as a normal choice and not … spam fighting button over and over and over with no text … Also I am a pro charisma character so fighting is a oh no SKIP IT PRESS BUTTON AND PRAY IS OVER


#16

If only CoG games have somekind of “checkpoint” so when you die in-combat, you’ll “respawn” at certain point before the combat, I can stand this stat-check-based combat mechanics.

and to answer OP @TheMaker 's question about death:
I personally hate death since death = backtracking the whole texts you just read

But I think most, if not all kind, of games treat death mechanism as that :confused:
Can’t be helped xD