Letting the player make stupid choices?


#1

By which I mean, do you think it’s important that the player have the option to make choices that might obviously lead to bad outcomes? Like fighting someone they are clearly not able to win against, or wandering into an obvious trap? Would you as a player avoid those choices anyway, or if they were left out would you be saying, “well, maybe my character would stick his finger in the electric socket!”


#2

Oh yes! Absolutely.

I suppose it’s worth considering the tone of your game, too. In a humorous game, foolish choices make sense - so to speak - and can lead to all sorts of wonderful shenanigans. I really enjoy those kinds of options.

Then there are games where you’re able to play a really daft character, the sort that doesn’t know basic electrical safety guidelines, or perhaps doesn’t care about them. Also fun.

One of my very favourite choices, and one of the most memorable, was right towards the beginning of Star Captain (a wonderful game). You are in a ship that’s about to crash-land on the jungle-moon of Cygnus, and you and your cranky computer AI, Lloyd, have a few options of how to deal with the situation. Oh, and you have a completely absurd option that says: Screw escape. I’ll spend the last 93 seconds of my life beating Lloyd’s main screen with a torque wrench.

Even though I like to play a pacifist MC as much and as often as possible, that choice was just so memorable and hilarious that I picked it anyway. The results were very entertaining - and here I am, literally years later, still talking about it.


#3

“Stupid” choices can potentially be really interesting, but only if they add something to the story. Insta-deaths are never fun, so there’d better be a darn good reason for adding one. Scars or other permanent injuries can lead to really interesting situations though, so if you’re planning something along those lines, please do.


#4

Whenever I finally manage to settle on a project I want to write, I’ve been toying with the idea of allowing the player to choose any option, but if, for example, there’s a stat based choice that they don’t qualify for, I would change the text of the choice to reflect this, so it will basically tell them you’ll probably fail, but there will always be a chance that it COULD succeed, through random chance. Even for a non-stat based “stupid choice”, I’d probably still have that outside chance of things going well. “Jump off a cliff? You’ll most likely die… But, maybe a dragon just happens to fly by at that exact moment and you snag its tail as you fall and you fly to safety”… Or so :stuck_out_tongue:


#5

In principle, yes, definitely! In practice though… only as long as

a) it’s funny, and/or
b) interesting,
c) it moves the story/character forward in a worthwhile way, or fleshes them out,
d) it’s somehow indicated (subtly or not-so-subtly) that it’s a questionable move,
e) it’s not a dead end (i.e. the player gets the chance, or several chances, to get out of the stupid situation they created for themselves)*

*Simple, abrupt death scenes in the style of old COYA books aren’t my cup of tea and don’t really bring anything to the table IMO.

Foolish choices, far from being isolated shenanigans just for craps and giggles, can represent an entire valid playstyle unto themselves - just look at the Malkavian playthrough in Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines (on PC), or the low intelligence character build in Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas.


#6

Of course stupid choices are great, and add fun replay value. Easter eggs and a fun role-playing character to use .


#7

I think players will enjoy punishment, so long as you make the punishment entertaining.


#8

http://www.hanakogames.com/llq.shtml go play that, then let me know what you decide :smiley:


#9

I think “stupid” choices would add to the realism of a game, at the very least. Life doesn’t filter those choices out for us IRL after all :stuck_out_tongue:


#10

It’s a whole lot of work just writing out the sensible choices. I agree that stupid choices can be fun (if they fit the tone, add something entertaining, etc as said above), but for your own sanity’s sake, I’d suggest using them sparingly.


#11

Stupid choices are better-fit for humorous games like Star Captain or Choice of the Rock Star (for example, the gender of “alien from the planet Rocktopia”). A couple such choices add entertainment value, but overdoing it is a bad thing.

Also, word from Cataphrak of the Infinity series is that he’s going to start including stupid choices that may not be so obvious, in order to move away from the importance of stats and the idea of “just operate in accordance with your highest stat and you’ll do fine.”


#12

Too soon, man.

Now, “letting the player make catastrophic choices that seem sensible at the time” I can totally get behind.


#13

Yeah, so long as they are entertaining and it’s obvious/implied that the choice isn’t that smart.
But they also should feel right with the tone of the game or specific scene. Otherwise it might take you out of the experience.
Take Samurai of Hyuga, for example.
The game let you fight off a bunch of samurai with a dead fish.
And it was fucking awesome.


#14

Lots to think about here, thanks! The particular choice I was thinking about wasn’t so much a funny-stupid choice as it was ‘wander off into the forest alone where you will almost certainly get lost and probably get eaten by a bear’. I’m leaving it off the table for now since it would probably be an insta-death.
@LordOfLA: I love that game!


#15

I’d have to say yes…mostly. A lot of it depends on what sort of book you’re writing. If it’s a light hearted tounge in cheek or parody type story go for your life. Work out how your hero is going to fight off that dragon using nothing but a flimsy looking slightly pointy stick!

On the other hand if you’re going for more realism or its a more serious book, you can still allow obviously bad choices but have concequences (loss of health, items, stats etc). If you’re going to have a death, either “sign post” it reasonably well (ie make sure people are tipped off to this may be a very bad move, nothing like choose to take the left or right path with a surprise that the left path is a fatal dead end with no warning) or make it a “worth while” death (ie don’t just say “you run in with your pointy stick and immediately die, the end.” Those personally annoy me, especially since you have to restart from the beginning to try again. Have some sort of proper battle scene where you then meet your end point. Anyway just my thoughts :slight_smile:


#16

ow yeah I god damn loved that choice to funny


#17

In a more lighthearted and humorous game, absolutely, like pretty much everyone has said. But in a more ground/realistic/whatever-you-want-to-call-it game, I find them a bit frustrating because they come off as out of character and reverse-meta-gaming (That’s not a term, but it is now!")