On Visible (and invisible) Stats

(Disclaimer up front: if your story has a lot of visible stats, I don’t hate you…in fact I’m jealous of the complexity you have achieved. I just want to discuss pros/cons since this topic hasn’t been
discussed lately that I could see, and with the new batch of hosted games, there may be new opinions out there.)

How do you all feel about the mountain of visible stats, given on most stories? To me, it complicates things to the point that I am too intimidated to even want to start! Maybe I’m naive here, but shouldn’t we be able to tell via narrative how good we are at some things? Doesn’t it sometimes negate the inherent suspense that the impact of a choice will have when we affix a number value to it?

For example: Oh, killing that guy only hurt my reputation by 5 points…whatever those are! I’ll be fine.

When what I SHOULD be considering is, “how will these characters react to my actions, and what will they say/do?"

My upcoming spy game will make liberal use of hidden stats, as the goal is for the player to discover through the narrative who is out to betray them, as opposed to a visible “loyalty” meter or something. Perhaps as the MC level of ‘available intel’ stat increases, more info about each NPC will be revealed. I’m open to ideas about this as well. My main concern is just to keep a clean stat page and not require the player to spam the “check stats” button.

Obviously this does not apply to all traits, skills, events, etc. So, how does everyone fee about invisible stats? Do you use them in your stories? Do you plan to? Why would you pick visible vs invisible? Do you even care?

I’m definitely not adverse to playing games with few visible stats, so long as I know that the stats do exist and the choices still have weight to them. Given the premise of your game, it definitely sounds smart to reveal little about relationships and stats.
Having fewer visible stats makes the game more story-like than game-like, so it really depends on what kind of narrative you’re going for. It’s easier to pass stat checks as a player if there are more visible stats.
From a writing perspective, I think it’s easier to know what values to set for stat checks if stats are visible, so you can know more easily how high or low stats or relationships can get at any point in the game.


To have a lot of stats can be confusing in my opinion though it depends on what kind of stats they are. If it is just something like Justice or Fame, it is relatively easy… at least for me. Though it can get confusing with some other stats.

In my story, I will use hidden stats as I do not deem some of the stats I have necessary to be displayed.

As long as the stat screen looks neat and everything is easy and not too complicated by the stats you included, it should be alright to include everything. But hey, everyone has a different taste, so you can hide what you think is not too important for now.

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What I’m doing in my current WIP is not having any visible stas for relationships. I feel the magic of a relationship with a book character is ruined if you have an exact number to measure it.

Instead of you feeling a strong connection to a NPC…you just look at the number like “oh that NPC likes me 58%”

Furthermore in my game I have some betrayal mechanics, where your actions have an effect on the character in ways you cant tell, leading to your betrayal. In situations like this is suppose relationship stats are not good.

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The MC’s personal stats like traits and skills should be visible, unless there is a realy good reason why the MC themself doesn’t know something about themselves, for example due to an amnesia or delirium.

Relationship stats are more difficult, I think it depends on the setting and the complexity of other stats. In most games there is no real difference, it’s up to the author to decide. In a game about romance or social interaction it might be very useful to have them visible. In a game where the NPCs have a hidden agenda, like in a spy game that you want to make it is difinitely best to keep them hidden.

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Personally I use visible stats more for my own sake as an author, I’ve a horrible time keeping track of stats without a visual representation.

I guess it’s mostly a matter of personal taste, so personally, as a gamer (of any type of videogame) I tend to prefer to be ‘told’ (i.e. visible stats) only what should be patently obvious for the character (personal stats, health, skills a character may have that are obvious to other characters, that kind of thing), and be ‘shown’ (throught the narrative & gameplay) everything else.

Personal relationships, in particular, are something that I’d rather be shown via actions and dialogs, and not by a Friend-O-Meter. (Always when talking about playing a finished game, of course; testing is easier when all the stats are visible)

Just personal taste! =)

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Never thought about keeping the stats open during a beta test, good idea

I think ideally stats shouldn’t have to be visible. Personally I make a point to never look at them during a first play through. I try to just play by feel. Make the choices that “my” MC would.

That said…having all that information available for a second, third, and fourteenth play-through is really nice.

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I guess that at the latest stage of a beta it may be a good idea to test the game in a finished state, hiding all the stats you plan to hide (to gauge the reaction from players that see only the stats you want them to see), but during earlier stages IMHO the more data the merrier. =)