Choice Design: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Evangeline Ingram
Newbie
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:55 am
Contact:

Choice Design: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

#1 Post by Evangeline Ingram » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:31 am

Visual novels are distinguished from kinetic novels by the fact that you can choose more than one path through them. That means good choice design is pretty key to the genre.

My experiences with interactive fiction have suggested the following about good choices:

- They matter. (Something significantly different happens as a consequence of having chosen that way.)
- They illuminate character. (A different person, in the same situation, would have chosen another option.)
- They're difficult. (The choice requires significant deliberation: there is no obvious correct answer.)
- There aren't too many of them. (The player is not required to remember every single thing they have ever done, nor do constant choices stall the narrative.)
- They're fair. (The player does not feel punished arbitrarily when they make an "incorrect" choice.)
- They're realistic. (They do not rely on "meta" knowledge the player "ought" not to have: they make sense in-universe as well as out-of-universe.)

... But it's one thing to state those goals, and quite another to actually achieve them.

How can this be done in practice? Are there any techniques to be taught, or is this just something you have to learn the hard way?

To go back to the classic five questions:
Who should make choices?
What should they be about?
When should those choices occur?
Where should they lead?
Why should they exist in the first place?

User avatar
Katy133
Miko-Class Veteran
Posts: 679
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:21 pm
Completed: Eight Sweets, The Heart of Tales, [redacted] Life, Must Love Jaws, A Tune at the End of the World, Three Guys That Paint, The Journey of Ignorance, Portal 2.5.
Projects: The Butler Detective
Tumblr: katy-133
Deviantart: Katy133
Soundcloud: Katy133
itch: katy133
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Choice Design: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

#2 Post by Katy133 » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:50 pm

Evangeline Ingram wrote:
Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:31 am
How can this be done in practice? Are there any techniques to be taught, or is this just something you have to learn the hard way?

To go back to the classic five questions:
Who should make choices?
What should they be about?
When should those choices occur?
Where should they lead?
Why should they exist in the first place?
I will try to answer each of these five questions with my own opinions of them.

Who should make choices?
I think whoever is the "eye" of the story should the character be making the choices. For instance, if the Sherlock Holmes novels were adapted into VNs, the person making the choices would be Watson, not Sherlock. This is because the stories are told from Watson's point-of-view. Sherlock is the hero, but Watson is the protagonist.

If your VN switches POVs, then you should be making choices for whoever you are currently POV-ing.

An example of a VN breaking this rule is Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (which got generally negative reviews for its writing). It had choices where you pick choices on behalf of various characters.

What should they be about?
I like dialogue choices and choices on what action to take next.

When should those choices occur?
I think a trap a lot of writers fall into is giving the player a choice that seems big, but if they replay it and pick something different, all paths lead to the same consequence. A big example is a tragedy (like a character death) that can't be avoided because it's needed for the plot to move forward. I tend to try and avoid this by not including a choice at all. Add choices in other places instead.

Where should they lead?
I think there's room in VNs for choices that both change a few lines of dialogue (dialogue choices are good for this) and choices that change something very big, like the ending.

Why should they exist in the first place?
VNs are awesome and one of the reasons why they're awesome is that your choices can change the ending to the game.
ImageImage

My Website, which lists my visual novels.
Become a patron on my Patreon!

jdhthegr8
Regular
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:48 pm
Projects: Fractured Spirits- A war drama set in a fictional world with WW2/Cold War themes
Contact:

Re: Choice Design: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

#3 Post by jdhthegr8 » Fri Mar 01, 2019 6:32 pm

Really good analysis. I like having a good mixture of both big and small choices. One other thing to consider is having more "dynamic" choices where it isn't a simple one-way-or-the-other choice but you consider the outcome of multiple decisions. In my story I have one potential branch where a side character betrays the protagonists, but only if your relationship value with him is below a certain level. This is a good way to create more complex decision-making and improve the value of the "small choices"

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Akatea, Bing [Bot]