I’d just like to get CoG Forum’s opinion on the use of hidden variables and statistics. Do you think it would be unfair to keep these variables completely hidden from players if they can have major effects on the game? Should there be some warning, either in-game or in some author’s note, that certain choices increase certain stats that could have a detrimental effect on a player’s character? Or is it enough to simply imply that this negative variable is being built through in-game scenes, like whispers behind a characters back?
I plan to use a hidden statistic in a game I’m working on that tracks a kind of negative reputation for players, which at various points in the game would be checked. If the value is too high, negative events occur and players are forced onto new routes. If the value is low, then the player will remain on the “main” route. As negative reputation accrues, the chance of negative events increases. Scenes would be inaccessible due to negative events, but at the same time new scenes would be available due to these negative events.
For example, the first negative choice I have is during a battle, where the player can choose to obey or disobey the orders of a commanding officer. If they choose to disobey the order and gain negative reputation, the players will save a minor NPC who could be useful later in some scenes, but they will also earn the enmity of a major NPC who will then become a rival character. Following the order will kill off the minor NPC and reduce the chances of gaining the major NPC as a rival.
As the game progresses, gaining negative reputation will adversely affect the player’s obvious goals, but open up the opportunity to reach alternate goals. Rather than aiming for, say, becoming a knight, negative reputation scenes would allow the player to enter a brigand route where they gain a reputation as a deadly and violent bandit that terrorizes the region, or a rebel route where the player decides to overthrow the ruling powers of the game’s setting. Thus, gaining a negative reputation might be something that players would want to aim for, but by keeping the existence of the variable hidden they would never really know why certain choices lead to certain routes and not others.
TL;DR: Should I keep a major game-affecting stat hidden or should I warn players about it in some way? I want to make the game more unpredictable than the CoGs I’ve played, so that each playthrough can lead to major differences.