Single-choice choiceblocks

I’ve had a couple of instances in my current project where in lieu of providing a selection of choices, I’ve only given one.

I’ve accomplished this in two ways. Either literally only given one choice, or had all choices but one greyed out (as if to indicate, there’s absolutely no way the character can do anything else, even if the player might think to)

I know that you can use page_break to sort of convey this, but I feel that there’s a different vibe to offering only a single choice. Provided it’s used sparingly of course.

For example, in my project, the single-choice is used as the main character comes face to face with a monster. It’s completely outside their experience and knowledge. The sole choice is
#Stare into the abyss.

For me, that moment of enforced helplessness is more powerful than the page_break.

I was wondering what folks’ opinions were on doing this, both the single-choice and every-other-choice-greyed. Bad practice? Fun trick? (bonus: how about having multiple choices alongside a never-selectable one, as another instance of yeah the player might think of this as an option, but the text of the choice saying why it’s not).

I guess there’s also a third thing, where you offer multiple choices which have differing flavour text, but all of them result in a ‘can’t do that’ type of response. I’ve used this too.


Personally, I’ve used this “trick”. I find that I like the effect for exactly the reasons you gave. I feel like, if not overused, the player knows that they have no choice. To me, this is better than the player thinking they have a choice and then finding out that “no actually, you can’t do that.”

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I feel it does indeed have that effect, but for me personally, it sort of gives me an unhealthy goal of trying my hardest to find the path that will unlock it, without knowing that it is not actually meant to be doable.

At least in situations where you are outmatched as opposed to under some mind control or where it is done for horror emphasis like a blocked option that has creepy text to signify a monster is taking ahold of you.


It’s definitely something to use sparingly, but there are some top-notch games that use this technique to great effect.


I have used something similar, with a single choice of “wake up” always being unavailable in a nightmare scene. There were other available choices, of course. None of them good. If not overused, it can be really cool.


Notably, technique was used in the indie-darling “Depression Quest.”


That’s the first place I remember seeing it, and still one of the best uses I’ve seen.

ChoiceScript games that use this technique include Hollywood Visionary and I, the Forgotten One.

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There are some points in A Study in Steampunk that use something similar too, to great effect. Like others have mentioned, I think it can be really effective if not overused.

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The first time I saw it it was kinda cool - but now it’s in the same category as sliding text in Twine.

If there will be only one choice why make it a choice at all? Wouldn’t the unselectable choices just make players think there were ways to achieve them? Which could be considered misleading?

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I’m most likely in the minority, based on the responses so far, but from a reader’s perspective: I feel when an author does this or like devises, they are showing extreme disregard, or even disdain towards me.

I get it, I am in a nightmare, or I am in a situation that overwhelms me … I am helpless, or I am petrified, or frozen, or whatever.

Forcing me to choose one choice after another to finally, after the 3rd, 4th, or 5th choice, allowing me to move the story beat forward doesn’t impart the actual feelings being described in the game, it just is eye-rolling annoying.

Only providing one choice, with the others greyed out, only makes me wonder if the other choices are truly available if I had selected differently prior.

With save systems implemented now going forward, most likely, I would be the idiot who went back to try to reach those greyed out choices … and I would feel like the author was intentionally wasting my time by showcasing non-choices in the choice.

In a well written and beloved story, I can and will roll my eyes and continue on. In a marginal quality story or even a questionably executed story, devises such as this prompt me to drop the story, never to pick it up again.

I see these types of non-choices being done in virtual novels and rpg-lite games all the time and apart from death mechanics that are considered unjust or too harsh, I find there is usually a back-lash against the deployment of these.



Thanks for sharing thoughts! All-but-one as grayed out definitely seems less-liked (maybe, then, something I ought to adjust), but interesting to know the single-choice technique has been used a bunch in other stories! I couldn’t remember coming across it in my reading but I have a sieve memory so you know.

See, in succession I think it would wear thin very very quickly. I’m talking in terms of doing it a single time, and having normal operations both before and afterwards.

Your explanation helps me understand how it could be frustrating in general though. Thank you.


On balance that’s exactly what I’d think: greyed out options imply to me that I could have unlocked them somehow. But in the right context, a single choice can be a powerful reinforcement that there is just one choice. I really do think you’d have to use it sparingly though. Like, for just one particular climactic scene in a game kind of sparingly.


A masterful storyteller can use these kinds of tricks without pissing off their reader. I’ll leave it up to the author to decide if they believe they are a masterful storyteller or not.


I would be very careful of this… it is my belief that those who believe they’re masterful storytellers rarely are, and those who are rarely believe it.


I mean, I didn’t want to come straight out and say it…


A writer who focuses on their vision for the story can use tools such as this to hone and fine tune their story. Some get lost along the way, but some, as others above post about, do pull it off.

Izzily and her wife are both conscientious and aware of the impact using these devices have, so I have more confidence in them than I do many of those authors I see on places far and wide like Ichio and Kickstarter.

I think it can be used, and used to really good effect IF the writer is good enough to pull it off and it’s used sparingly and in the “right” way. But it is really easy for this to tick players off if you don’t get it quite right too, or make them confused if there are options greyed out that seem like they should be available but they can’t work out why (so it needs to be super clear that it’s been done as the only choice that can be chosen somehow).

I know depression quest has been mentioned that does this and although it’s well known and got a lot of press (for good or ill) when released, for multiple reasons regarding the content (not the politics which I found out about later) I really don’t like that game. It does use the forced choice “trick” but it overuses it to make it very obvious it’s pushing the author’s idea of what things should happen into a funneled ending where the rails are very obvious and it frustrating to someone looking in and finding the message being pushed as misrepresenting to potentially dangerous (rather than what I think was supposed to be the goal which was to make the player feel helpless with only one right way forward). So yep, one of the dangers of overusing this is that it makes the rails easy to see and may annoy to frustrate your readers if they keep getting shoved back hard onto a preset track.

Sometimes as a possible alternative that I’ve seen about, if you want to emphasise only one choice being available, you can have a choice but they’re all the same thing. Again needs very sparing use though and depends on what you need. For example if you’ve got no weapon (because you can’t have one at that point in the game) and a crazed monster that can’t understand english is about to eat you and you’ll surely die if you don’t flee immediately. You could grey out the options to “fight with a weapon” or “negotiate” and only leave “run away” available to chose, or you could do something like:



Personally I feel about this one possibility or greyed out choices exactly Like @Eiwynn . It hast been the reason that I did not buy an otherwise interesting game because of that.

I very much prefer @Jacic way of doing that, since that way I at least have a choice even If it is the same.

Otherwise If there is no choice why would you give one? For me it is Just annoying, nothing more. I’d prefer a simple Page Break, but that’s just my opinion

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I 100% agree with this method. Again, forcing players to make a choice is kind of antithetical to the entire concept of interactive fiction, but if you feel you HAVE to do it for the story to work, I much prefer this option. Especially over the “lots of options but they are all greyed out”.

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