What are the worst kinds of choices?

The execution of a choice (or lack of) determines the quality of that choice-body.

Overuse the best choice in the world and it becomes stale; but aptly used, that choice becomes an all-time classic.

@Fiogan points out expectations being different then the choices bear out but I am of the opinion that choices themselves are ok, even if not expected as long as the choices are part of a structural whole that does.

I see a lot of people here say:

I’m writing a story that is interactive and not a game.

The trouble with this, is that this leads the author to treat the mechanic-side (which choices are) as not important or secondary to the story. Unfortunately this is where choices become disconnected from the whole.

Choices that are disconnected from the mechanics are not able to guide properly or even lack a purpose - that is what defines “poor choices” to me.

While I empathize with this, sometimes if you are put in the middle of a long-standing relationship, it is good to know where the protagonist was coming from originally. If I knew the guy climbing the tree with me for the past 15 years and I know he loves pranks - the choice is to treat the person as a clean slated stranger or to front-load all the prior baggage of such a long-standing relationship. I feel the blank-slate route is worse.

If you can’t change going forward, that is a different situation in my eyes.


For me, “mechanically correct” choices, in which there is a right choice to achieve your goal and all others are just bad, and essentially lead to a failure. Sometimes it’s a big failure, sometimes it’s a minor setback. (If this is a stats based thing I see it as a necessary evil, not all choices should have an equal chance of success if stats are involved, i.e. an agile thief type shouldn’t be able to do the exact same thing as a massive fighter.)
The reason I say this is because it means that on later playthroughs I won’t be thinking about whether the character I’m playing would do/think this, I’m thinking about whether or not this is ‘optimal.’ For example, in the first Mass Effect game, toward the end of the second act or so, you have to choose between one of two characters to save, a classic dilemma, and a bit tired, but at the very least slightly compelling. Well, originally the developers decided to have an option (potentially only accessible in a New Game Plus) where you could save both of them. They ended up getting rid of that option, however, because they realized that outside of a few exceptions, no player would ever choose any option besides the one to save them both. The only reason you would is out of curiosity to see the other branches, but it wouldn’t make sense in the world of the game to not make the choice that saves them both. This is exactly what I mean. I don’t like having choices where there’s a clearly right option, morals irrelevant, and the game acts like there’s a decision to be made. My father always told me, “If you have to make a choice, it’s because there isn’t a right option. You have to make a choice, and then make it the right option.” This is pretty good advice in life and in IF writing. Don’t give your player a choice unless there’s no right OR wrong option, because that will prevent them from seeing your work as a series of check boxes to get the right numbers and instead compel them to take on real dilemmas you present them with.


I agree with this in general, but I think relying on it too much could be bad as well. Everything in moderation and all that jazz.

Also, isn’t having a ‘next’ button is enough to break up large sections of text? I understand this is very much a personal preference (it’s definitely mine), but I thought I’d mention it since this topic is about dislikes.

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In my experience, having too many “next” buttons in a chain turns off readers - they tend to start skim reading or even skipping to the “important” prose (defined as a choice) … so I’d caution against substituting “next” progression for “choice-body” progression.


There are a few games that encourage you to make moral choices in the framework of the setting rather than the player. There’s a bit of this in Pendragon Rising. A philosophy themed game could be fun (I co-wrote a text adventure along these kinds of lines). In a sense, by measuring and testing different personality traits, CS games are a natural fit with virtue ethics: the games are often more about cultivating a character than making judgements.

There’s an essential tension between offering the player multiple ways through the game through stat choices, and offering multiple real successful choices in any given moment. My preferred solution is grades of success. Rather than:
*if skill >= 3
I prefer something more like:
*if skill >= 3
Big success
*elseif skill >= 2
Reasonable success
*elseif skill >= 1
Mixed success

I’d rather have a characterful reaction choice (that maybe increased or decreased a personality stat a tiny amount) than a next button, but next buttons are fine for scene breaks within chapters.


I’m actually fine with this kind of choice, depending on the buildup that went before you made said choice. Realistically speaking, a person can’t be right all the time. Failure is a part of life.

But of course, if the story went to all the trouble of building up that choice and just pulling the carpet out from under you when you make the choice… well, i’d be frustrated. But it mainly depends on the story.

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The best kinds of choices in my opinion is the right vs right (which one is better) or the wrong vs wrong (which one is less evil). In those cases, you actually have to choose and think about it. a right vs wrong choice is very much a no-brainer.


Fourth Aristotle you got a constantly maintain balance of your stats through Flector tempered nature you’re striving to constantly be good to reach what translates into being prosperous man.


I was thinking about it, and an imperfect example of what I mean can be found in Mecha Ace, in which at around the mid-point you have to choose to either defend your friends- who are military targets- or save the lives of civilians. It’s a really great dilemma, because it’s also possible that your love interest is threatened by the same choice. There are a lot of solutions, too, as you can sacrifice your own squadron of fellow soldiers to defend as many targets as possible, at the cost of their lives. It’s a perfect example of having no easy choice to make. However, this is kind of dismantled by there being a way to save everyone, as long as you have the right stats and meet one other condition. With that, I’m left wondering why I would ever make another choice besides investing in that stat and saving everyone. There is no real downside to that choice, because every other conflict in the game does have a resolution involving that stat. It makes me feel kind of wrong for choosing anything else, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense. I’m more okay with this than other examples, because it just makes it so that other builds do have to deal with that dilemma, but the option is always in the back of my mind that with a certain build, I can completely avoid it.


As for my answer to this question, the worst kind of choice is when there is only one (forced) correct answer to a multitude of possible correct answers. The only reason for failure was because you had missed an item or a stat check several pages ago and was not notified of possible consequences of your choice. This kind of choice is popular in min-maxing CoGs, which I try to avoid as much as possible.

@Regulus Thank goodness I have played the game before so that I was not spoiled. xD You might want to put a spoiler tag or something.

In my point of view (or playthrough in this case) I was not able to find that optimal solution on my first go and was forced, as you mention, to choose between following orders or saving my squad. And as far as I remember, if my stat allocation wasn’t right, that save-everyone-choice would have ended badly. And even if I was able to save everyone, at another point in the story, I would have failed because my primary stat was not right for the situation.

This distribution of stat usage will create multiple playthroughs in which one player will decide to choose a different primary stat in future forays to determine what would happen if only “I had chosen differently.” Which is the end all-be all of choice based games, in my opinion. :grin:


I think comic relief choices are still significant. Although not really affecting the game, the result is still there: comic relief. So still, something happens after making the choice. :slight_smile:

As for breaking chunks of text, I’m okay with those. It actually helps in giving the player a better feel of the game like “book reading simulation” effect. An example of this is in Highlands, Deep Waters.

What I’m referring to as insignificant choices are those which are supposed to have an impact in the continuity of the story but for some reasons, end up being negligible. Ex: you choose to yell at the NPC but the NPC acts like nothing happened. Thus, the choice has no effect at all. And I never like it when that happens.


Thanks for getting me addicted to his Youtube videos. -_- :wink: I have now watched “Goofy reads Fifty Shades of Grey” …


I have 2 that I hate.

Rejection/We can only be lovers choices
These mostly show up in otome games but irk me just as much when I see it in other types of games, text-based or otherwise. Sometimes I really like someone, but only platonically. I would love going down their route, getting to know them and everything about their life, and trying to change it for the better, but I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with them. I hate it when games force you to choose between dating the person or rejecting them and not getting to know them at all.

Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t entirely mind a love interest that refuses to speak with you after you say that you are disinterested in them or something. As long as that childish attitude is part of their personality, then that makes it a decent character and not annoying writing. I also don’t mind it too much if I’m playing a previously defined character who is not me, meaning they already have their own previously defined personality that I have no control over. In that case, as annoying as I would find it, it’s understandable if they choose not to have any close relationships that are not romantic in nature. In both those cases, though it’s not my favored style of writing, they are both potential story elements and not due to the creator(s) not wanting to write friendship scenes… or at least the author doesn’t make it apparent.

Dead end choice
This is the choice that I hate above and beyond all choices in any game be it text based (it shows up more here than in other formats), table-top, 2D, or 3D gaming. This is the choice where, if you choose it, you automatically die or otherwise automatically fail the entire game with no chance of redemption. To me, this shows poor writing skills like why did you even include the option if you didn’t actually want to go through the effort writing a continuation of the story for it?! This doesn’t include situations where the choice is pretty much at the end of the game. I feel that those, if any, are valid places to input dead end choices.

Ex: Player has a choice pretty early in the game of fighting back against an assailant or hiding in a corner. It is noted the assailant is pretty skilled in combat when compared to the player’s character.

What I view as bad/lazy writing:
Instead of choosing to hide, the player decides to fight back but isn’t just beaten, they are killed.

What I view as decent writing:
Instead of choosing to hide, the player decides to fight back but they lose. The gap in between the attacker’s skills and the player’s character’s skills is huge and obvious. Just before they are killed…

  1. Someone could come to save them
  2. The winner could feel like the PC’s death is not worth the energy
  3. They could be captured
  4. Literally anything but doing something that automatically ends the game. Like why would you put the choice there then?

This is exactly what my point is but I ended up running around in circles trying to explain it that I lost it.


Several other people have mentioned it before, but I’ll try to put it in my own words:

Basically, the choices that are the worst are the ones where there’s only one correct answer (or as I like to call them, “Live/Die/Die” choices). This applies to choices where only the one that corresponds to your highest stat is correct, or choices where the correct answer is preset. Either way, it basically means that there’s only one way of playing the story, so it negates any kind of player choice. Often, the stat-based choices will also only work if you’ve maxed out that stat, too, so you end up always choosing the option that corresponds to that stat, or else the choice ends up as “Die/Die/Die”. (I once played a WIP where all of the options led to my character’s death, because apparently I needed to increase another, completely separate, stat in addition to the one I was supposed to be maxing… :confounded:) This also applies if “failure” doesn’t lead to death, if it leads to a significantly worse story (quite often, a single failed stat check early on will make it impossible to catch up).

Sure, choices which make no difference can be annoying, but at least then you get the choice. It’s like quite a lot of the games with appearance choices: these generally make no difference whatsoever to the story, but do help the player get a better idea of their MC.


Choices that I consider bad the most are forced choices or choices that didn’t have any effect.

Forced Choices/No effect:
One example, is a Pokemon fan game, where my MC is stuck with a boyfriend. MC turned him down(romantically and his offer) from the start but MC still end-up going out from her lair after years, then be with him to show the world. Well I get that its purpose is to start my adventure, but be romantically involved no, didn’t think it’s necessary to show MC around.

All I’m saying is, if you’re going to put choices in the game it should have an effect at least, an effect based on the choice you picked, not asking for a size of effect, I’m asking for a difference, or a new path. Well if I’m going to end-up doing what the author wants then might as well don’t give choices in the first place.

Edit: Well there are few exceptions, like as long as its purpose is to show defiance that would be acceptable.


I really like romance in game. What I don’t like is when the text keeps telling me how awesome MC thinks this stranger is and that we should tots date them. Huh, no. Bad bad game, I’m not going to date them because I don’t know them.

Don’t get me wrong, MC can think so and so is hot and still let me choose what I want to do about it. It’s when the writer has made their mind about who I have to end up with that I feel like I’ve been forced into an arranged marriage.


The worst kinds of choices make you believe that the world is only so big, or that you’re only allowed to do certain things with your life. To the contrary… Your future is unlimited. Believe in yourself, and make that dream into a reality.


Choices that don’t even effect anything. I understand the use of Fake Choices for inconsequential things but when you just steamroll over whatever the player attempts to do to change things is just annoying. I had a lot of problems with that in Redemption Season.