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March 27th, 2008, 04:17
The problem for RPG designer is that, unlike in pen and paper, there are no situations where the player will have to just deal with the wrong choice he made. Instead of asking a person to reload here, you're asking him to take the free candy and solve the problem that way. How does that improve… anything?
Tough question. My answer:

Because the first way cuts off exploration of alternative paths, and the second gives the player the some ability to limit the repercussions of choosing the non-optimal path.

Except, it may not. This may go down in history (well, a history remembered by only a handful) as something akin to Ken Williams' brilliant idea of making your computer crash when you crash your plane in Sierra's flight simulator. "Won't this be cool and add more REALISM to the game?" he said.

I can go on and on about this (in fact, I'm sure I have, on my blog), but here's my general thinking on this:

#1 - Theory: Story in game is dependent upon the player as a shared storyteller. That, or the author cuts the player's interactivity off at the knees, and forces the issue. (And make no mistake - I'll be doing that sometimes in FK, too, due to time / budget / stupidity / laziness).

#2 - The player is a TERRIBLE storyteller, because the elements that make a good story run contrary to that of optimal gameplay. A good story has the hero taking his lumps, getting beaten down, and triumphing right in the face of defeat. However, a good player will not allow himself (unless forced into it by the designer) to GET into those situations.

I have a few little stories to back up those beliefs.

So the idea behind this metagaming device is to encourage the player to put on the shoes of the storyteller. He doesn't have to - the traditional reload-the-saved-game safety net is always there. But if he's willing to allow his characters to go into greater peril - make a mistake, accept the results of a less-than-flawless victory, or play with the "kiss the hobgoblin on the lips" option (not that I'll necessarily have one, but it'd be cool, wouldn't it…?) and let the results stand a little bit… then there's a chance that the game might be more exciting as a result. And lo - we put the power in the player's hands to give the heroes a little bit of a "leg up" in the upcoming battle in spite of fighting at worse odds.

Or the player gets his butt handed to him, and he has to reload anyway.

Worst-case, I think, is that people ignore the drama stars and just play it like any other game. I've wasted a lot of effort for nothing.

But hey, I'm an indie - the game may suck anyway, nobody will buy it, and the drama-star thing may have been the least of my wasted efforts. Them's the breaks in indie-town.
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