Too many player choices?

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Steamgirl
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Too many player choices?

#1 Post by Steamgirl » Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:05 am

Hi all,

This is my first thread to post, so sorry if I post something that's already been posted and all that. >.>

I was wondering how you guys put decisions in, and how you decide where a decision is appropriate? For me it seems just to flow creatively like my writing generally does... it's not a predetermined point or anything. What is a "good" player choice? (Not from a moral point, from a game designer point?) Should it be interesting? Outcome predictable? Meaningful? Have high impact? Drama? All of the above?

I've recently started work on a VN-type game and been thinking - am I putting too many player choices in?
I've written 1500 words and I've got 14 menus - that's nearly 1 choice for every 100 words written.
Plus, with all the branching taking place...
It's probably because I've played so many RPGs like Planescape, Fallout, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, etc. They often have highly interactive dialog. But I noticed that VNs tend to have a lot less player choices - and when you make a decision as a player, it usually has some kind of (significant) consequence. Most of my choices so far are more "flavour" than substance, if you know what I mean? After the choice, the conversation returns to the point it has to go to, it's not a "long lasting" decision.

Here's an example of my "meaningless" choices, for those who are curious:

Code: Select all

    l "Well, what did you think?"
    p "Think?"
    l "Of the test?"
    p "Uhhh..."
    menu:
        "It was fun to do.":
            jump intro_larissa1_fun
        "It was a bit weird.":
            jump intro_larissa1_weird
        "Don't care, just doing my job.":
            jump intro_larissa1_nothing
        "The questions were stupid." if char_logi > 1:
            jump intro_larissa1_stupid
        "The questions were a bit cold." if char_emoti > 1:
            jump intro_larissa1_cold
            
label intro_larissa1_fun:
    p "I enjoyed doing it, it was fun!"
    l "Really? I hated the test."
    p "Huh? Why?"
    l "Oh, I don't know..."
    l  "Maybe it's because I don't like Richard."
    jump intro_larissa2
     
label intro_larissa1_weird:
    p "I don't know, it was a bit weird."
    l "Yes, I know what you mean."
    l "But then Richard is a bit weird..."
    jump intro_larissa2
     
label intro_larissa1_nothing:
    p "To be honest, I don't have an opinion. Just doing my job."
    l "Wow, life grind you down that much, huh?"
    p "Heh."
    p "Been with the company too long, I guess."
    l "I get a feeling I know what you mean..."
    l "I've only been working here for a short time, but that damn Richard..."
    jump intro_larissa2

label intro_larissa1_stupid:
    p "Tests like these are usually inaccurate, especially when the questions are so stupid."
    l "..."
    l "I completely agree! So glad to hear someone else say that!"
    l "I cannot understand why that damn Richard insisted on these..."
    jump intro_larissa2
    
label intro_larissa1_cold:
    p "It was alright, but I felt like the test didn't take feeling and context into account. Not a good way to find out someone's personality."
    l "Wow, someone who agrees with me!"
    l "I mean, some of these tests can be alright... but this one in particular..."
    l "Justice or mercy? Why not both?"
    l "Who would you take on holiday? Oh, I don't know... my husb- my mother maybe?"
    p "Yeah, or some friends."
    l "Hah! Richard probably doesn't have any friends... that's why!"
    jump intro_larissa2

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Re: Too many player choices?

#2 Post by Dakishimete » Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:44 am

With this many choices it does seem like an RPG.
What you shouldthink of is that every choice should have impact on the rest of the game. If it doesn't it's not necessary and it just means more work to you. Make as many menus as you like as long as you won't get lost in the branching. For your first game it's wiser to make little projects though, but if you're already experienced creator lot of cchoices might work.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#3 Post by Victoria Jennings » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:02 am

0: !

I'm actually taking a similar approach as well with collective, which is heavily inspired by Persona 3 (also with meaningless conversation choices). The main function behind it is to add to immersion, in that giving players the option to steer the conversation in the direction they want to will allow them to identify with the MC more. Personally, I prefer it that way, but I suppose it depends on the feel you're going for.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#4 Post by TheTourist » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:05 am

This is something I've been wondering about as well; so far, all of the choices in my game have at least some effect, but sometimes I consider adding choices to conversation just to get readers to participate more actively (or whatever) in the narrative and become invested in the protagonist. That said, however, I get the feeling from reading threads that most people -- at least on this board -- dislike too many choices that don't change the plot.

In a way, I can understand; if you agonize over too many choices, trying to discern possible consequences, it can be frustrating to get pulled out of the game. :/

Ultimately, though, like everything else, it's up to you! :P
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Re: Too many player choices?

#5 Post by Endorphin » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:28 am

I kinda like many choices. =o
It gives me the possibility to actually say the things that I want to say, and if the only "reward" is the conversation I'm fine with that.
I also play the game for the characters after all, and this gives me the impression that I'm actually talking to them instead of just looking at a dialogue.
And not everything I choose to say in real life actually has effect on the "plot of my life" - it just changes the conversation flow temporary.

Then again, if you have a protagonist with a "strong" personality I prefer less - I mean, it would be weird if you play Kyle Hyde from Hotel Dusk and could choose whatever. His character sometimes narrows down your options to a point that every other choice would be out of character.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#6 Post by Ryouzanki » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:59 am

My present project need the MC to be friendly with some character in order to get them to help him. That's why I need a lot of choices. Moreover, I actually think that may make the game a bit more dynamic or interactive. For instance G-senjou no maou was pretty awesome but I regret It dont offer a lot of choices.

I got 19.100 words for 142 menus for the moment. Nearly 130 words per choice.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#7 Post by Steamgirl » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:41 pm

Wow, those are some really interesting responses!
What do you guys do to decide whether a choice is "worth putting in" or at what point you put one in? Any kind of methodological approach or is it just as it comes up?

@Dakishimete
Thanks for your advice! I agree with you, having this much branching is a lot of work - I mean - I'm working on a small piece of dialog which splits into 5 and then 4 of those split into 3 - that's 12 paths that the player only sees 1 of. Translating this to a "typical" short VN a 10 000 word game suddenly becomes a 120 000 word game! 30 minutes of player experience, but 6 hours worth of content.

I wouldn't say I'm inexperienced in terms of making games (I've made puzzles, platformers, and even a never-finished RPG), but it is the first game I'm making with Ren'Py and certainly the first VN-style game, so I think I should probably reign it in.

@Victoria Jennings
Yeah, this is my thinking too. Probably because immersion in the PC/MC and being able to steer them is something I've enjoyed in other games I played. I'm just worried that a) I might swamp myself with work and become demotivated with slow progress, and b) people who would normally like the kind of game I'm making might be put off? Can players be put off by too many choices?

@TheTourist
"dislike too many choices that don't change the plot." <--- This and this!! ---> "if you agonize over too many choices, trying to discern possible consequences, it can be frustrating to get pulled out of the game." Exactly!

I mean, I said to myself I'd make the kind of game that I'd like to play, because I noticed that lately I was feeling in a bit of a slump creatively speaking - I was constantly worrying about what other people might think of my games/art/writing/etc. That can be very stifling. But now that I've found my mojo again, I don't want to do something totally stupid like put too many options in, when I could easily do less. lol.

@Ryouko
That's a really good perspective, thanks for that Ryouko. I'm happy to hear it wouldn't annoy everyone. I think when I started doing the game, I came up with personalities for all the NPCs but not for the main character, so naturally the game lends itself well to having the player step in and assert their own personality on the game. I mean, it even starts with a personality test which unlocks some conversations/options later in the game for the MC and steers some of the reactions.

@Ryouzanki
That's really interesting! It's happy to hear I'm not the only one. So how do you manage the complexity of the game when it has so many branches? Any advice for someone new to VNs?

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Re: Too many player choices?

#8 Post by Morgan_R » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:43 pm

I'm only just getting started with story-based games, (mostly over at ChooseYourStory.com) but so far I'm really leaning towards a 'choice-dense' style. Not many choices at once -- I think more than four or five is probably too many -- but very frequent choices. Because to my mind, if you're making an interactive story, it should really be interactive.

Also, as a player, I find frequent choices to be more engaging. It doesn't matter if they're important to the story, I'd still rather have a choice every few lines than to read screens and screens of text -- making me passive and removing my connection with the protagonist -- only to be confronted with a sudden, single, game-changing choice. Maybe what I want is less like the classic 'visual novel' style... but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Genres evolve, and I'd love to see visual novels evolve in the direction of more choice density.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#9 Post by Sharm » Sun Jul 29, 2012 5:00 pm

The important thing for me is that the choices have clear consequences.
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Re: Too many player choices?

#10 Post by Steamgirl » Sun Jul 29, 2012 5:44 pm

@Morgan_R
Thanks for your thoughts. I'm getting a sense that maybe people don't mind a "choice dense" game as much as I thought. ^_^

@Sharm
What do you mean when you say clear consequences? Like do the consequences have to happen immediately after? Or do you have to "know" what you're choosing between? That is, you prefer a choice between "save the girl/don't save the girl" more than "take an umbrella/don't take an umbrella" and subsequently you save/don't save the girl? Or do you mean that there have to be serious/significant/story-changing consequences? Or something else entirely?

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Re: Too many player choices?

#11 Post by wakagana » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:24 pm

Personally I think when you have a huge list of choices that really have no impact on the game, it makes it more a of a chore to choose between them so often, and offers almost nothing towards the games development.

I understand player freedom and being able to interact more so with the game. But when it is just filler, unimportant stuff, It really becomes a challenge to push your self through the game. Sure it might have replay value, but if everything you say has only a small sway in what is going on, it makes it hard to really understand what choice made it so you weren't able to go down a certain pathline or route.

I feel that subtle choices every so often, mixed with obvious favor based choices really make a game more enjoyable. -shrug- Just a personal thing.

I really don't think you should have more then 100 menu's in a game unless each choice is actually going to have an effect on the gameplay.

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Re: Too many player choices?

#12 Post by FatUnicornGames » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:36 pm

I have a ton of player choices in my game too, but I am trying to make sure that every choice DOES something, either splitting the story up in different ways or modifying stats (affection and personality stats) that will make things happen in different ways.
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Re: Too many player choices?

#13 Post by Sharm » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:43 pm

Steamgirl: I mean I like to know what I'm choosing. Stuff like your umbrella example drives me crazy. If I know none of the choices are going to be arbitrary like that I don't mind a few extra ones purely for flavor. If the results are more random, I don't want any extra choices, because it makes it harder to find where I went wrong.
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Re: Too many player choices?

#14 Post by Destiny » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:32 pm

I think it depends on the game o.o
A game like "Coming out on top" from Obscura can have many choices, because there is "only" one goal, namely making a special person like you. Here every choice gives you a different amount of points, depending on how much you behave like that person wants.

I also think it makes sense in a survival game (or anything simliar thrilling), since it can give away a hint about how nervous the MC feels.
Of course, here should the consequences be clear from the start.
If the MC is fleeing from someone/thing and I have five choices (let's say: warehouse, main street, hotel, coffee shop, red light district), I would like to know why I should go where.
If I just die out of nowhere only because because, it will frustrate me.
BUt if the player gets to know sometime before this moment that the hotel is full of helpfull people and that the coffee shop is perfect for hiding, then it should be that the MC isn't going to die there (or at least get's new choices to make it possible for him to outrun/beat his enemy).
I mean, I remember a chasing scene in Togainu no Chi, where you are chaised by a pair of insane murderers. You get some choices and you have no clue whatsoever. I first chose to run a different direction from the person I was fleeing with. Resulting in me choosing between two directions next. Direction one resulted in me being eaten alive by murderer One, direction two resulted in me being ripped apart by murderer Two. Staying with the guy (who initially tried to kill me) will save the MC from dying ôo
I - as the player - was extremly irritated, since it was kind of totally unreasonable why 1) the MC would stay with that guy, 2) that duo would seemingly only chase me afterwards (since the MC hadn't done anything) and 3) a person alone can't outrun someone but a duo dragging each other through streets can.

A simliar frustrating thing is the character Castiel from the Online VN "My Candy Love".
Without a walkthrough one will ultimately make him hate the MC for sure. Because he is a deliquent, he likes it if you are mean about those caring for marks and good behaviour. BUT he loves sarcastic comments, talking about music and dogs, staying silent or even stupid when you don't know anything and stuff.
It get's often to a real headache about what answer is supposed to be right.
For example: He offers help. Possible answers: "Castiel, the good guy always ready to help", "Seriously, what happend" and "Seriously, it's becoming annoying that you misinterpret everything".
The first is the best (sarcastic answer), the second neutral, the third bad (accusing him).
Seems obvious?
Look at this set of choices:
You show a new teacher the school and meet Castiel on the schoolyard.
Possible choices: "This is the schoolyard. You should avoid it if you don't want to meet nasty guys.", "This is the schoolyard. But teachers don't go there anyway, right?" and "This is the schoolyard. You meet nice guys like him here."
Following the pattern of castiels behaviour, the last one (sarcastic) would be right.
But the first one will give you points (because AFTER the choice the MC will say, that he is an exception) and the other two make your points drop significantly.

But there are also games where I find a lot of choices unreasonable.
A "harem" game (meaning more then one bachelor) shouldn't have too much choices, since it would make the game really complicated, making it hard to remember what will change something with who (exceptions being obvious things like choosing a dessert and you know bachlorette A loves strawberry cake).
Here are choices up to three ok.


But I would say, it is quite simple:
The choices shouldn't be overobvious about what the consequenzes will be (like person A now totally being in love with you), but indicate what could happen. The choices should be appropiate in amount accordning to how many choices are NEEDED (or at least can be used without seeming forced).
And they shouldn't confuse the player too much.
Last edited by Destiny on Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Too many player choices?

#15 Post by Morgan_R » Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:20 pm

This is an aside, but: I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Castiel's dialogue options kind of fail.

Also, if that game has anything to do with candy, I've yet to see any signs of it. :P

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