Defining Good Choices in Gaming

Mass Effect 2

It’s been said often, but Bioware is the developer that gets the most praise when it comes to infusing a game with player-made choices (and more recently, Quantic Dream). However – is choice always the best route that a developer can take? Could choice restrict or limit game design? Could choice make a game less interesting?

That’s the question that Robert Green at Gamasutra poses this week. Green discusses the choices in games that have mattered most to him, and the ones that really fell flat. He makes some spot-on points about good and bad choices just for the sake of having them, and how they don’t really add much to a game. Green also waxes eloquently about how putting players into a class or upgrade box before giving them all the information they need is limiting for the player as well.

I totally agree with the assertion that players need more information before choosing classes and certain upgrade paths. The skills you have at the end of the game can make or break its enjoyment, and I hate not knowing what becomes more important later on. I’ve spent dozens of upgrade points leveling up completely useless things before in games, and it’s fairly irritating. I also agree with the idea that hard choices are better than simple morality choices.

What do you guys think about how choices are being used in games? What choices have felt too simplistic or not impacting? Which choices have really stuck with you?

Source – Gamasutra

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4 thoughts on “Defining Good Choices in Gaming”

  1. That was a damn good article, really got me thinking. As far as morality choices go I think Dragon Age nailed it. Grey is the best colour for morality. It worked better than in, say, inFamous where I had already chosen good because I like to be good and do what’s best for everyone. But in Dragon Age, what I think is best for everyone doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice. Alistair and Leliana may agree with me 99% of the time but the Epilogue shows just how my actions really affected the lives of others in the game. Another point I’d like to make is rewards the player recieves for being “good” or “bad” in games. Fallout 3 is the best one in my mind for this. I played good, my friend played bad. My friend got everythig I got (such as unique items and weapons) for being good as they’re usually just quest rewards and more due to his character’s lax sense of morals (ie. killing people to get really powerful SMGs – Sidney). InFamous is the inverse of this as I found the Good powers much better than the Bad ones. After Fallout I decided that I would never be bound by what the game told me was good or bad but what I felt, and I started with replaying it and doing what I would have done. I still ended up, say, 80-90% good (same with every game now really) but Dragon Age was fantastic in how it challenged my morals. Who do I appoint a king? A dictator or someone who would merely hinder the dwarven people’s progress? Would I sacrifice lives of innocents for Golems which could possibly save many other’s lives in the long run yet risk abuse, or would I go against the very idea of sacrificing someone’s life?
    On the topic of character classes in games, I’m glad I played the ME2 demo. I just have to play the intro and get stuck into the combat mission to test out different classes. I hate Soldier, enjoy Adept and absoloutely love Infiltrator. I wasn’t expecting the lack of an assault rifle and slo-mo to be such a minor loss. Invisibility FTW!
    Deus Ex got around the problem of choosing classes and weapons by ensuring that no matter what skills you had, there was a use for them which is why I hope Human Revolution turns out great as I want to replay it with completely different skill sets each time to see what works best. If nothing works best then Eidos will have done their job flawlessly.

  2. Most choices in games feel fairly simplistic to me. Mass Effect, however, still holds the question that is most complicated to me; the genophage. Every time i think about it, I actually start to worry. On one hand, it’s wrong the doom the Krogan race to slow extinction; on the other, if they prospered the galaxy would again probably face more wars like the Krogan Rebellions.
    It feels silly actually worrying about it, but I don’t really want to bone a race for eternity.

  3. Like Skuba said, when I think of choices in games, my mind holds Dragon Age in the best light. Something appeals to the gamer in me when I know that I hold power over an entire race, especially when that race happens to be an assload of Dalish elves who have already been royally screwed in the past (aw come on. you know werewolves are soooo much cooler.)

    Regardless, I do agree that some games bog down the story with too many options. I suprised that games like Fable still exist mainly because the storyline depends so much on your past game that it seems ridiculous to even try and make a plotline based off a predecessor.

  4. I usually play really “safely”, always trying to make the best choices. Which really just means I save / a LOT / . If I don’t like the outcome of my choices in a conversation, AutoLoad! I’m trying to break that habit though, just trying to enjoy the game, rather than hoarding lockpicks and multitools, saving before I find out what’s in the locker I’m breaking into…

    It’s hard.

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