Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

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Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

#1 Post by jentalmars » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:35 pm

Apologies if this isn't the right place to post this.

I'm working on a simple VN with several character routes. I recently played Cinderella Phenomenon and was intrigued how you can choose a character's path relatively early on. Most other OELVNs I've played aren't as "clear-cut" and require the player to hunt around to achieve their desired end result.

What do other creators think? Have you used either of these methods in your games, and if so, which one do you prefer?

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Re: Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

#2 Post by parttimestorier » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:24 pm

My personal preference is having several choices throughout a common route that determine which route you get afterward, but not too many. That way it's not super obvious, but it's also not so complex that I'd need to follow a guide rather than experimenting. And you can also spend some time just getting to know all the characters and deciding which one you're most interested in learning about. That being said, it definitely depends on the story, and if it makes sense to forego a long common route in favour of earlier branching then I have no problem with that.

One thing that's sort of a pet peeve of mine regarding route selection is when you're given really simplistic, transparent choices. Like if you get asked something that amounts to "which character do you want to hang out with" three different times, and there's no advantage to doing anything other than picking the same character all three times to move on to their route. If it's going to be that straightforward, I'd really rather the game actually directly ask me to choose a route, rather than half-heartedly pretend that it's more complex than it is.

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Re: Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

#3 Post by trooper6 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:38 pm

Partly that is taste and genre. I know there are people who, when playing dating sims, what a very clear choice early on that says, "which boyfriend do you want, pick!" because they don't want to waste time, they just want what they want.

I tend to play VNs that aren't dating sims, but different genres. In those games I don't want to "choose" my ending at all. I want to play the game, make choices, and then find out what the consequences are.
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Re: Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

#4 Post by Mammon » Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:09 am

It's not the format rather than the execution that matters. With Cinderella Phenomenon for example the choices would've been hellish if you didn't get those hearts to tell you if you chose right, and the forceful choices and sheer abundance did annoy me regardless in a few routes. But stories with too few choices can be bad too, if those choices are asked when you've got no favourite amongst the LI's yet or feel forced or not intuitive. And yet, choices that felt too simple and obvious to avoid such lack of intuitivity and difficulty are often bad too.

This depends on the story, the writer and the questions. Making questions that are intuitive to what the route and result will be without making them bland and predictable is difficult. Making questions unique or in-character without making them impossible to understand without a walkthrough or just brute-force trying is even harder.

A VN I often mention in these kind of discussions is Cupid, which has a very unique set of choices. Instead of being the MC deciding, you are a voice in their head which is very early on established as self-destructive and even malicious to the MC yet with a lot of sway over her. That VN had a great way of adding their questions, but unfortunately I had to get a walkthrough to find the last few endings because the questions weren't intuitive and made it impossible for me to find all the endings without brute-forcing all kinds of combinations.

A VN that resembles CP in the choices is Seduce Me, by having a similar heart in the corner system. I'd rather use this VN as an example for choice-making because they use the hearts and thus the choice better to form the love interests. Where a lot of Cinderella Phenomenon's choices were impossible to link to one character without those hearts, such as the direction you'd head when chased before being rescued, in Seduce Me they showed what kind of MC and actions as preferred by what LI. However they also had an overlapping theme that the MC had to be headstrong and dominant in the relation which was made clear similarly to how each route in CP had some kind of theme in choices you had to choose to get the good ending. For someone who doesn't want that one specific relationship or act a very specific way, that can be jarring. Maybe you want to romance the transgender prince without being so headstrong and letting him make the decisions once in a while. (Especially considering the player might feel like the non-combat MC is only being a burden with the choices they're supposed to make.) Telltale games in comparison do allow you to roleplay your own character even if your personality-choices don't matter much in the story, which I actually prefer.

So once again, it's not the choice format rather than the execution and how fluidly adapted these choices are. No kind of choice system is perfect and flaws don't mean it's bad. It can however be bland if you go for the safe choices, or jarring if you force the players to make choices that don't seem fitting or suited for them.

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Re: Do you prefer choosing a character's/ending's route early on or letting your choices influence the end result?

#5 Post by MizuIsTheWorst » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:56 pm

I agree with Mammon.
I think that coming up with new choice systems is fun and keeps things fresh, but if they're not properly utilized, then it's an unneeded annoyance.
The game No Thank You had a choice system where you could say "No Thank You" to what was currently happening without knowing what you were changing.
This was interesting, but in practice it wasn't used enough, and the standard choices were basically:
Which dude do I want to pursue?
So it didn't work well with the standard choices.
When coming up with systems, I think the most important thing is to think about how they interact with your game on a whole.
By giving instant route choices, you are pretty much breaking 4th wall and acknowledging the kind of game the player is playing. However, if you don't feel like dragging the player down a common route, or if the character's stories are so varied that they don't connect together well, then this can be your best option. If done well, the player shouldn't really feel like they merely picked one of the several characters, they should feel involved in the story.

Basically, do what feels right for your story and your game. Basic choices can be immersive and complex systems can be uneeded.

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