|
Your donations keep RPGWatch running!
RPGWatch Forums » Games » General RPG » Gamasutra: the Semiotics of Choice

Default Gamasutra: the Semiotics of Choice

November 6th, 2013, 01:15
Interesting read. In particular, this paradox.
The Player Choice Paradox The player choice paradox is this:
  • Players want meaningful choices
  • Players want to be reasonably informed of the consequences
  • Players want to always pick the right choice (and for there to be a right choice)
  • If players make the wrong choice they want to immediately know so they can simply reload the game
The paradox is players want choice, and then want the thing which makes choice irrelevant. This isn't every gamer, but in my experience as a designer it's a fair amount who play RPGs. Even — perhaps especially — those that don't want to admit it.
So what's going on here?
Solution? Have no good or bad choices (ala the Witcher)?

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DaveW…_of_Choice.php
Thrasher is offline

Thrasher

Thrasher's Avatar
Wheeee!
RPGWatch Donor

#1

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Studio City, CA
Posts: 10,441

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 06:11
Are you sure that article wasn't written by Bioware?

*Edit* I guess I should have read the blog before commenting. It's actually really good.
Last edited by JDR13; November 6th, 2013 at 06:47.
JDR13 is offline

JDR13

JDR13's Avatar
SasqWatch

#2

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Florida, US
Posts: 18,299

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 06:52
"*Players want to always pick the right choice (and for there to be a right choice)
*If players make the wrong choice they want to immediately know so they can simply reload the game"

This, to me, is only the result of bad choice design. For example, I am always so frustrated when the few RPG developers who actually have put the time into creating different choices render this "role-playing" opportunity useless by distilling choices down to:

A.) Be a noble hero
or
B.) Be a dick

And it's not just Bioware who is guilty of limiting the player's choices by making them so black and white; any game with a "morality system" of anykind is guilty as well. Games like Fallout (old and new) suffer to some extent from this, but thankfully this is disguised to some degree by offering plenty of dialogues to explore that are varied and interesting (bluffing, attribute/skill checks for more options, etc.). However, far too many choices are either "good karma" or "bad karma." This forces you into extremes, playing a very specific stereotype of a character with little opportunity to explore each situation differently or experiment with how you want to resolve a specific situation.

I feel that the whole "morality system" needs to be removed from the design process in order to not fall into this trap of limiting the player's options from the get-go. the Witcher might go a bit too far with the "grey area" approach, but at least it's always interesting and doesn't force the player down a linear, predetermined "morality" path (rendering the concept of choices useless.)

My final thought to choices is that the "consequence" part should be replaced with "reactivity." Player's shouldn't necessarily be "punished" with consequences for making a choice they feel best suits the moment, thus causing the whole "re-load" situation, but instead the world should react and/or change to reflect the player's choice. Basically, take the concept of Deus Ex's open-ended gameplay approach (where you know what you want to achieve, but how you go about it is up to you) and apply it to choices.

Alpha Protocol excelled at this by changing the dynamics of the game world based on the player's approach without having an absolute "right or wrong" choice. AP was quite elegant in that NPC's, different factions, and the storyline would bend and weave with the player's decisions while maintaining two key ideas:

1.) The player's choices should matter and feel satisfying.
2.) "Consequence" - i.e., making the player feel that they made a "wrong" choice - was replaced with meaningful world reaction instead.
Last edited by Nerevarine; November 6th, 2013 at 11:50.
Nerevarine is offline

Nerevarine

Nerevarine's Avatar
Keeper of the Watch

#3

Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 853

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 07:07
Good article by the way. The author really nails some of the biggest flaws and problems with choice design (or lack thereof), such as lack of permanence, lack of meaningful choices and world reactivity, and Bioware-ian "phantom choices."
Nerevarine is offline

Nerevarine

Nerevarine's Avatar
Keeper of the Watch

#4

Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 853

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 09:56
I really need to play Alpha Protocol. Should be next on my list. The only risk being that two Obsidian games played back to back may spoil me.
Thrasher is offline

Thrasher

Thrasher's Avatar
Wheeee!
RPGWatch Donor

#5

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Studio City, CA
Posts: 10,441

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 10:21
While I quite agree on the points that good game design should not be about simplistic binary/black and white choices but more about reactivity (but also about providing different tones and moods to a game's story/plot and influencing the way a character plays and feels), I never got the seemingly unstoppable urge to reload and see if you got the "good" choice.

Did I make the choice that made sense and fitted to the concept of the character I am playing (or more often my own sense of "morality"). So why exactly do I want to ruin my game by metagaming and removing all the hard work that the developer might have done, to create some dramatic overtones by possibly providing some unforeseen consequences to my actions.

That completely defeats the purpose of CnC and probably tells me I ought to be playing linear Hack and slashers or Hiking simulators

I love my quicksaves and quickloads, but they are there to have before and after a challenging fight so I don't have to redo it immediately just because my concentration faltered for a bit a moment afterwards (if the game lets me )… Other saves just to prevent losing your progress to possible crashes and technical issues (when I remember to do them) and sometimes for when you really painted your self into a corner (it happens some times). Everything other just lessens a game's experience for me….
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#6

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 11:30
Well, my position is that the best way to implement C&C is through an understanding of human psychology.

As in, the only reaction to any action involving human beings should be a plausible human reaction - which can be supported through compelling writing. Don't try to teach, preach or judge the player - just create consequences that fit the environment and the circumstances.

Why?

Because then you have something more real - and trust me, human interaction is always the most interesting and the most entertaining when based in reality. You don't have to "save the world" or "kill all the children" to create compelling scenarios of choice.

That's just me, though.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#7

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 11:44
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Don't try to teach, preach or judge the player - just create consequences that fit the environment and the circumstances.
Indeed, I agree and by extension I also agree with what Nerevarine was saying above. Don't rub the players nose in making him feel like he made the bad choice. That is indeed bad design, especially if it is presented in an artless way.

But having some horrible consequences to your actions even based on good intentions provides Drama and emotional attachment to the story and world so I would definitely not like to see that going away. Consider i.e the choice that resulted in the bad development for Flotsam and its residents in the Witcher 2. It made you feel bad and made the game harder perhaps (?) but it also changed the world in a dramatic way based on your actions and this indeed is the type of consequences and reactivity I want to see more of in games.

Edit: Just don't base the assumption of what constitutes bad design on whether some (maybe a lot) players want to abuse save games or not. They are going to do it anyway, and hey, if they enjoy the game like that more power to them…
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#8

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 11:55
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
Indeed, I agree and by extension I also agree with what Nerevarine was saying above. Don't rub the players nose in making him feel like he made the bad choice. That is indeed bad design, especially if it is presented in an artless way.

But having some horrible consequences to your actions even based on good intentions provides Drama and emotional attachment to the story and world so I would definitely not like to see that going away. Consider i.e the choice that resulted in the bad development for Flotsam and its residents in the Witcher 2. It made you feel bad and made the game harder perhaps (?) but it also changed the world in a dramatic way based on your actions and this indeed is the type of consequences and reactivity I want to see more of in games.

Edit: Just don't base the assumption of what constitutes bad design on whether some (maybe a lot) players want to abuse save games or not. They are going to do it anyway, and hey, if they enjoy the game like that more power to them…
Well, if you look at the real world - there's no shortage of tragedy or major incidents involving real human beings

But I don't think drama is more compelling because something major happens. I'm much more invested in the people than the world - but that's me.

Personally, if I do something that changes the entire world - that's less likely to move me than if I do something that creates tragic circumstances for a single individual - like if I kill the town bully, only to discover he was providing for a small family and now the mother could be forced into desperate acts to support her child.

Something as simple as that is more compelling drama to me - than all of those Bioware world saving scenarios combined.

For some reason, I can relate to plausible human circumstances a lot easier than singlehandedly saving the world and killing a great dragon with a couple of daggers.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#9

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:10
Oh, I forgot to add that in such a scenario - I would largely prefer that the consequence of killing the bully wouldn't be shoved down my throat.

As a designer, I'd do something like having the woman prostitute herself - and the player may or may not encounter her. If the player elects to engage her services - she might mention in an off-hand manner that her husband was killed in a way that would be recognisable to the player. If the player bothers to listen to her bedside rambling, he'd realise that he's actually the reason she became a prostitute.

Something like that is what I would consider compelling drama.

Telling me for the 1000th time that the fate of the world depends on me is incredibly boring.

It's like a US tv show - where the first 15 minutes is exposition about how amazingly cool the main protagonist is and how WE MUST WATCH THIS SHOW BECAUSE IT'S SO COOL!

Subtlety is appreciated, you know?
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#10

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:11
I do like the idea of more low key approaches and interpersonal Dramas (Deus X's side quests seem to have a bit on that but I am not yet clear if they carry actual consequences to how the NPCs develop or their actual relationship with the main character).

Its not that the sort of human Drama doesn't exist at all in games, but it is usually relegated to sidequest status and generally underutilized. The pogrom explosion of tensions in the example I mentioned above does carry some overtones as it touches on a very real world issue btw. (People turned to rampaging rioters, murdering their former neighbors and showing quite a bit more of what was going on inside on some normal seeming individual than it is usually comfortable to witness)
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#11

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:16
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I do like the idea of more low key approaches and interpersonal Dramas (Deus X's side quests seem to have a bit on that but I am not yet clear if they carry actual consequences to how the NPCs develop or their actual relationship with the main character).

Its not that the sort of human Drama doesn't exist at all in games, but it is usually relegated to sidequest status and generally underutilized. The pogrom explosion of tensions in the example I mentioned above does carry some overtones as it touches on a very real world issue btw. (People turned to rampaging rioters, murdering their former neighbors and showing quite a bit more of what was going on inside on some normal seeming individual than it is usually comfortable to witness)
Yeah, and I agree that The Witcher 2 is one of the best examples of a relatively lowkey approach. That's one of the reasons I'm a big fan of CDPR - because they're not all about the big drama.

But obviously - I don't expect much in the way of what I'm talking about in games. They have to market them to the masses - and based on the positive reactions to that Witcher 3 "Matrix" trailer - even around here, subtlety isn't what most of you are looking for, and that's ok.

I have to look elsewhere for that
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#12

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:18
P.S its not that I am deathly bored of save the world games. If the story and setting are well done I can find more than a bit of enjoyment there still. But lets face it, they are mostly contrivances designed to push the gameplay and exploration forward more than something that you are expected to invest emotionally in, nowadays… Sort of like Bethesdas main questlines

It seems that anyone wanting to go a step further than that draws upon real world issues and tries to create plausible situations and characters and I do enjoy those games a lot for those aspects as I enjoy others for the sheer gameplay and atmosphere.

Not a lot of them that do it well though are they ? I can think of the Witcher and coincidentally Deus X (which combined with the well made stealth gameplay I can see why you like so much ) off the top of my head…
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#13

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:26
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
P.S its not that I am deathly bored of save the world games. If the story and setting are well done I can find more than a bit of enjoyment there still. But lets face it, they are mostly contrivances designed to push the gameplay and exploration forward more than something that you are expected to invest emotionally in, nowadays… Sort of like Bethesdas main questlines

It seems that anyone wanting to go a step further than that draws upon real world issues and tries to create plausible situations and characters and I do enjoy those games a lot for those aspects as I enjoy others for the sheer gameplay and atmosphere.

Not a lot of them that do it well though are they ? I can think of the Witcher and coincidentally Deus X (which combined with the well made stealth gameplay I can see why you like so much ) off the top of my head…
It's extremely rare

PB games do have some of that subtlety and most of their characters are much more plausible than you'll find in Bioware games.

One game I really loved in terms of writing and characters was BioForge - but that didn't have any C&C. It was just based around human psychology and what happens to people when you start to take away their humanity. Ancient game and I might be looking through rose-colored glasses, but I remember it as some of the best writing in a game.

Bloodlines also had some great stuff in it, as I recall.

But no, it's definitely not a common thing.

Oh, it's not that I can't enjoy games without that kind of approach - I certainly can. But it's probably one reason why story doesn't matter that much to me - because I know I'm never really going to get what I want.

Certainly not from US developers, because their entire entertainment culture is about larger-than-life stuff - and they're also obsessed with appealing to the masses and making a shit-load of money.

That's why I tend to prefer the writing from CDPR and PB - as they have different aspirations, it seems.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#14

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:30
Bloodlines, good example.

I'd also add Fallout NV but I recall you don't really like Obsidian's efforts
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#15

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:32
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
Bloodlines, good example.

I'd also add Fallout NV but I recall you don't really like Obsidian's efforts
I like some of their writing - and I liked it in FNV as well. It's their technical/QA talents that I find lacking, to put it mildly.

That said, I found the writing in Alpha Protocol awful, and I'm also none too fond of the Avellone approach.

Did Avellone do NV? It didn't seem quite as pretentious as his usual stuff.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#16

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:40
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I like some of their writing - and I liked it in FNV as well. It's their technical/QA talents that I find lacking, to put it mildly.

That said, I found the writing in Alpha Protocol awful, and I'm also none too fond of the Avellone approach.

Did Avellone do NV? It didn't seem quite as pretentious as his usual stuff.
I'll definitely disagree with you there. I usually love Avellone's stuff and have him in pretty high regard as a designer/writer

What strikes you as offensively pretentious from his work ?

Fallout NV's director was Sawyer but Avelone was one of the main writers iirc.

P.S I have to try Alpha Protocol one of these days… Lots of drastically polarized opinions on that one…
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#17

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 12:55
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I'll definitely disagree with you there. I usually love Avellone's stuff and have him in pretty high regard as a designer/writer

What strikes you as offensively pretentious from his work ?
Well, I base it mostly on KotOR 2 - as I believe he was the main guy for that one.

Frankly, I'm a big fan of Star Wars - and I think Star Wars has a certain naive and romantic vibe that should be kept intact. It's very much the dark side versus the light side - and it's naive on purpose. Well, obviously Lucas is such a bad writer he might have been serious - but I certainly never took it seriously as an adult.

Trying to turn Star Wars into something "dark" and subtle is just as wrong as what Christopher Nolan did with Batman.

But I know most gamers seem to think KotOR 2 has great writing - and I know most people are fans of the Dark Knight.

I just don't believe in comic book plausibility - I think it's stupid. If you want to do something serious - don't go with comic books. Don't go with Star Wars.

But it's not just that. I didn't like the Kreia character - because I don't like forced mystery and pointless verbosity. "Oh, I'm clearly so profound - and I have something so important and so secret - but I'm not going to tell you for hours and hours, I'll just spout endless vague exposition". You know?

Some people like that and that's ok - but I consider it weak writing.

Take Tolkien, for instance. He's probably my favorite writer - because he understands how to articulate. He's a master of it. Every single sentence is to the point and somehow it's also beautiful. It's not vague and he doesn't hide lack of material behind a wall of text.

The fact that his books are so long even so, speaks volumes of his ability to focus and his work ethic. I know lots of people think he's a bore - but even if I'm not necessarily enthralled with all that Ents background nonsense - it's there for a reason, and no words are wasted.

LotR is also romantic and also has clearly defined bad guys and good guys. It's not a masterpiece of subtle human interaction, but it's an incredible tale made with such talent and passion that I can't help but adore it.

I can only hope Obsidian stays far away from Tolkien - and that Avellone doesn't go egomaniac on that one as well.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#18

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 13:06
Oh, and I don't believe I called him offensively pretentious

Just pretentious.

People don't offend me.
DArtagnan is offline

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#19

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 15,258

Default 

November 6th, 2013, 13:11
Ah Kotor 2, another one I should try one of these days…

That said I doubt it would strike me that hard, not really being very invested in Star Wars (much as I loved the originals as a kid and I am sure I'll sit down and enjoy them again some time in the future).

If he was really heavy handed going about it there I understand that it might tick you off. Have to see it for myself at some point.

You know we disagree on indirect and elusive storytelling in the end so things like that may even be plusses for me. That said I love Tolkien (and never got on with that: "Tolkien is a bad writer" claptrap) too so I guess I may be a bit easy to please at times

Hmm are you getting the feeling we are derailing this thread

P.S: I do believe that comics and more serious approaches are quite a bit possible and can even turn Great. Yes the Dark Knight (the comic) is a good example but the Watchmen is even better, and the Sandman (if you disregard the first 8 issues) might even be up your alley as it focuses on characters and interpersonal drama of very real people and issues.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Oh, and I don't believe I called him offensively pretentious

Just pretentious.

People don't offend me.
I meant it in the sense that he offended you gaming sensibilities enough to turn you off. Nothing more than that
JonNik is offline

JonNik

JonNik's Avatar
SasqWatch

#20

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,734
RPGWatch Forums » Games » General RPG » Gamasutra: the Semiotics of Choice
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT +2. The time now is 01:14.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright by RPGWatch