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Balancing Choice With Irreversible Consequences In Games

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the no-takebacks dept.

Games 352

The Moving Pixels blog has an article about the delicate balance within video games between giving players meaningful choices and consequences that cannot necessarily be changed if the player doesn't like her choice afterward. Quoting: "One of my more visceral experiences in gaming came recently while playing Mass Effect 2, in which a series of events led me to believe that I'd just indirectly murdered most of my crew. When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding, and as control was given over to me once more, I did the only thing that I thought was reasonable to do: I reset the game. This, of course, only led to the revelation that the event was preordained and the inference that (by BioWare's logic) a high degree of magical charisma and blue-colored decision making meant that I could get everything back to normal. ... Charitably, I could say BioWare at least did a good job of conditioning my expectations in such a way that the game could garner this response, but the fact remains: when confronted with a consequence that I couldn't handle, my immediate player's response was to stop and get a do-over. Inevitability was only something that I could accept once it was directly shown to me."

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If I wanted consequences (3, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859692)

Look, if I wanted my actions to have consequences, I'd be living real life, not playing video games!

Just give me a good, linear narrative with lots of explosions.

Re:If I wanted consequences (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859744)

Just give me a good, linear narrative with lots of explosions.

That's what movies are for!

Though having said that, I still love stuff like Half-Life and Uncharted, but the single player stuff only lasts for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks at most if you don't have a lot of time to play.

The rest of the time, I much prefer more freeform stuff like GTA where the game world itself is just as entertaining as the story.

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860934)

the single player stuff only lasts for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks at most if you don't have a lot of time to play.

At which point you're done with the game unless you can convince all your friends to buy a copy of the same game.

Re:If I wanted consequences (5, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859874)

Or playing nethack.

No reset, no checkpoint, no turning back. Unless you cheat every decision is final and will result in you, the game or both changing somewhat.

The only "reset" is to start from scratch which however will result in a completely different game.

Re:If I wanted consequences (3, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859938)

Nethack - even through it's considered obscure and lacks a user friendly interface is very much like life.

Remember kids - Reality has no second life. What is done is done. And experience is gained. It's only when you are old you know how you should have done things.

Re:If I wanted consequences (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860150)

Well life doesn't feature unicorn, for one thing...

Infinite lives is not the only feature request for life 2.0. Otherwise we would all be playing "Cubicle Programmer Online"

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860424)

it does have user friendly interfaces. they're not as good for playing fast and colored characters are actually easier to decode than a messy graphics trying to display a "dragon" that's the same size as a mouse.. so playing with them, you can sink even more time to it, but more of your brain time just goes into the interface, clicking here and there.

it's just not considered very friendly a game when you have to remember 40+ memory rules and it still takes a LONG time to play to even get to the really annoying ways to die, no matter what the interface.

and well with nethack - once you finish it, at least it has some closure. mass effect2 is open ended. meaning that it has no ending, meaning that the ending will be in the next game. or the game after that. you know how lost works. mass effect 2 has a crapload of side q's and henchmen, which provide the main content, so most 'plots' are around 10 lines of dialogue and the main plot doesn't advance at all after the first 30 minutes of the game. but they managed to fit in a cookie cutter boss fight, because um, that's the way to build immersion in a game set in a galactic civilization, a friggin boss fight with a friggin 100 meter robot human.

Re:If I wanted consequences (2)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860602)

the main plot [of Mass Effect 2] doesn't advance at all after the first 30 minutes of the game.

Uh... what. Yes it does. In fact, the plot advances significantly over the course of the game.

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860842)

I would have liked to see much more focus on the interaction with the Illusive Man in the story. I think it was kind of a casualty of the fact that the game can be played down two lines (broadly for or against IM, although in both cases you're stuck doing his missions when he tells you) that we didn't see more of this. Butting up against the council in the first game seemed much more involved. I understand what GP says, after you are "reborn" and find out evil characters X are behind everything, the game marches inevitably towards the encounter with evil characters X, and the only other "revelation" is that original evil characters Y from the first game are behind the actions of evil characters X.

Re:If I wanted consequences (5, Interesting)

kainosnous (1753770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860060)

When I first started playing nethack, I was frustrated by how almost everything was irreversible and game changing. I would quickly kill myself when sometihing didn't go the way I thought it should.

I have since resolved to play out each game the best I can no matter how unlikely the odds seem to be. In the process, I've learned to be more careful with each choice that I make. This has the advantage of adding a more real sort of fear that gets the blood pumping. I get a real tingle up my spine when I "sense a wave of psychic energy" at the bottom of the Gnomish Mines.

Another upside is that I find that I have more unique characters which sometimes require unusual tactics to get by. When you overcome these challenges, you have a story to tell that likely has never been experienced before.

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

Pete (big-pete) (253496) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860120)

Or playing nethack.

Or for something a little more recent and a lot less complex (and less deadly) there's Minecraft. No saves, every change to the world is changed as and when it happens - if a creeper happens to blow the front of your house apart then you're going to need to rebuild it.

Now they just need to enter an option for perma-death rather than having death just respawn you naked back on your starting square. Restart the world and it's randomly generated from scratch.

I'd love to see minecraft become more nethacky with complexity to discover, perma-death, and a very dangerous series of steps to get to some sort of objective...

-- Pete.

Don't be a douche (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859984)

Intricate plots, twist-endings and philosophical speculations are a must for any media nowadays.

- Michael Bay

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860000)

Reminds me of that "stuck in a timeloop" Day Break - "Decisions have consequences."


"You've just been eaten by a grue." (Still not sure what a grue is, even 30 years later.) In most modern games it's part of the narrative that the heroes will get beaten by the Big Bad guy, but not killed.

Re:If I wanted consequences (2)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860024)

I don't believe that games teach children to be violent in real life. I do wonder, however, whether they teach children to look for the reset button.

Reset kids? (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860640)

If kids are expecting a reset button in real life because of video games they need more parenting time and a lot less Halo. Being unable to tell the difference between expectations and rewards in video games and real life means there's something seriously missing from their early education.

That goes for everything: movies, friends, even the internet. Parents don't even have to be experts, just caring enough to teach what to get out of an experience. Not to say it would be awesome to one day school my teenager in their favourite FPS, but that's a different tale. :)


Re:If I wanted consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860078)

Look, if I wanted my actions to have consequences, I'd be living real life, not playing video games!

That would make sense if we were talking about consequences in the real world. We're not.

Re:If I wanted consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860546)

The best part about statements like this is to see how long it takes before some nerd takes them literally.

Re:If I wanted consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860114)

And sharks. Preferably with lasers attached to their abdomens.

Re:If I wanted consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860696)

Ah, but when was the last time you've been asked to join a chicken kickin' competition in real life? Never mind saving the galaxy from an evil robot invasion and usurping the galactic government for your own species.

Re:If I wanted consequences (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860914)

I'd tempted to agree. A compelling story is infinitely more important than 'choices'.

Let's take bioshock. It's a great environment and a great story... but the game play itself... a regular shooter. The choices you get to make don't really affect your game play in any significant way. They just affect the outcome of a cut scene at the end. These days, once I'm done a game like this, I just go on youtube and see the alternate endings.

Then you have the bioware world of choice. Choose your class of character. Choose to save the village or not. Choose to be good or evil. Choose to kill the dragon or just walk away... All this would be fine and dandy except the costs are high to creating such really high quality version of such a game. If you actually create different content for different choices, someone playing the game through once doesn't even see all the hard work you do. So you end up with a lot of choices that basically lead you to the exact same game play.

However, I still end up replaying these bioware games because your game play can change based on the type of character you are (mage, thief ...). Would I play the whole story over again as the same class... just making different story choices? Nah... as I said... I know the path basically ends up the same... and I can youtube any videos or cutscenes. In general this is a good formula. Play as a different class and make different game choices... you might well... you're replaying the game.

As to saving to avoid consequences. I do it as well. I think games that purposefully try and counter this and annoying at best. There were a few times in mass effect 2 where you're 'forced' (immediately follows a mission or cutscene) into consequential conversation. So you didnt have a save right before the consequence. I found this more annoying than anything. Thankfully most of these were just the romance decisions... and I youtubed the alternate scenarios. I don't see the point is game designers trying to impose making a hard choice by replaying the whole game just to see an alternate path. it's probably futile... and most of all... chances are the alternate path doesn't really offer anything significant beyond something I can lookup on youtube.

response (1, Offtopic)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859694)

I recommend sleep.

Quitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859710)

Gaming 101: Never quit until the screen says "Game Over"

Re:Quitter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859804)


Re:Quitter (1)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860148)


That explains what killed everyone.

i lost... (1)

jaggeh (1485669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859714)

...the game.

But seriously, on my first playthrough i lost 5 of my 9 crew. i lived with the consequence and this is the game i will be bringing forward to ME3 (if the option is there)

Im currently on a second playthrough of ME1 with different sex character, when it comes to ME2 maybe things will be different this time but i probably wont use this game in ME3 until ive finished it with the first one.

Re:i lost... (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859740)


On first play, just by a fluke (and by being pedantic in collecting all the ship upgrades) I ended up with no one lost.

It was only later when I went into the ME2 forums that discovered, to my surprise, that you could lose people in the end game! I had that feeling I imagine people get when they are told that the plane they just missed ended up in the field just outside the airport...

Re:i lost... (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859754)

Yes... but it kind-of seemed obvious you'd need the upgrades at some point. Also bought a pet Hamster, which literally brought me seconds of amusement.

Re:i lost... (2)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860012)

Yes... but it kind-of seemed obvious you'd need the upgrades at some point.

Apparently even if you have all the upgrades you still can lose a lot of people by choosing wrong people for different team members at the end game.

Also bought a pet Hamster, which literally brought me seconds of amusement.

I just couldn't bring myself to do it...

Re:i lost... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860034)

>>>I had that feeling I imagine people get when they are told that the plane they just missed ended up in the field just outside the airport...

That was an awesome movie.
Death eventually fixes his mistake (kills off the people that missed the plane).

When I'm playing a 50-hour RPG, how do I shorten the time so it only takes half that? Replaying these things is a challenge when it takes so darn long.

Re:i lost... (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860044)

RANDOM QUESTION: When I'm playing a 50-hour RPG, how do I shorten the time so it only takes half that? Replaying these things is a challenge when it takes so darn long.

Easy. Wait 3 years so that you forget everything and then when you play it its all new again and at the end you feel that 50 hours is too short, like the first time!

Re:i lost... (1)

MBlueD (1464095) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860172)

I do this regularly with Baldur's Gate series (~ 1 year cycle). The mods help too.

Re:i lost... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860130)

Pretty much the only way is to ignore side quests and just blast through the storyline. Of course, at that point, what are you doing playing an RPG...?

Re:i lost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860202)

skip all the dialogue

Re:i lost... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859748)

i will be bringing forward to ME3 (if the option is there)

It will be. It's been stated in several places, including in ME2 itself (there's a tip somewhere mentioning that your choices will have a direct impact in your ME3 game)

Re:i lost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860118)

And in Baldurs Gate 2 they said you could import you character into Neverwinter Nights. They also claimed I needed to eat. Don't let the in-game tips fool you ;-)

I lost Kain.... (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859746)

I lost Kain at the end on my first play-through, but then on second play-through I just didn't send him through the vents and all survived. But I think you're talking about the fact you didn't upgrade your ship before entering the jump gate, which is where a lot of players fail first time out. The thing is, there aren't any irreversible choices in games these days; most of them have check-points or a save facility, which a lot of players use constantly. With judicious loading and saving, you can effectively move your character along an optimal path (well ok, a little like A*, rather than actually optimal!). The only problem is if you're forced to make such choices early on in the game and then have to retrace your steps all the way back there.

Jack or Miranda (2)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859760)

Anyway, the real question is whether you virtually boned Jack or Miranda...

Re:Jack or Miranda (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860390)

No way! Tali FTW.

It's OK. (3, Funny)

Woy (606550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859762)

All it means is that you are a pussy. Seriously.

Re:It's OK. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860058)

it just means also that the ending sequence in mass effect 2 is very badly written. in fact, the whole structure of the game sucks ******* soooooooo badly. ultima 6 had more choices, more dialogue, more routes. more items. more varied npc's and actual cities to explore.

plenty of pseudo choices though and obvious "which character you prefer to play" conflicts. it's no fun that you don't see the whole dialogue option before choosing either, it feels very much like in futurama that viewers choice movie, choose one thing and the character says something that's totally different in spirit and meaning than the choice you made on screen.

Successful game (5, Insightful)

mvar (1386987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859776)

When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding

I call that a successful RPG game/experience & I wish most cRPG's were like this. If I want linear storyline, I'll pick an FPS

Re:Successful game (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859888)

Well said. Although linear storylines can still give you an emotional response like that. The end of Bioshock and Bioshock 2 brought a tear to my eye, for example.

Re:Successful game (2)

wisty (1335733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859926)

Most RPG games don't allow a lot of choice. If they do, it's usually a choice between such varied fates as "Evil half-daemon wizard saves the world", "Noble barbarian warrior saves the world", and "Silver tounged theif saves the world". Oh, and you can choose to do a few side quests, some of which are unfortunately mutually exclusive.

Sometimes there's also an option to destroy the world instead, at the last possible minute, if you happen to have the right evilness rating.

Re:Successful game (2)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859992)

When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding

I call that a successful RPG game/experience & I wish most cRPG's were like this. If I want linear storyline, I'll pick an FPS

If I understand correctly, the event was unavoidable, so this part of the storyline is indeed linear.

Re:Successful game (1)

mvar (1386987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860192)

The event was unavoidable because of the player's choices earlier in the game. I haven't played ME2 yet to know how true this is, but it sounds good. All cRPGs should be like that, most of them just leave you a choice at the end of the game (i.e. Baldur's Gate). One game that had real "Irreversible Consequences" choices is Deus Ex (IIRC)

Re:Successful game (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860234)

ok, thanks for the clarification.

Re:Successful game (1)

BoredAtWorkWhatElse (936972) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860828)

If I understand correctly, the event was unavoidable, so this part of the storyline is indeed linear.

This event was avoidable, however it depended on the order you did the previous missions ... so if you did the stuff in the wrong order you would have to load a save game that was a couple of hours old to "fix" it.

The way I see it, it’s not "avoidable" in the same game, however with another character it could be.

Re:Successful game (1)

lehphyro (1465921) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860612)

Mass Effect is not an RPG.

Re:Successful game (2)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860932)

How do you figure? I admit, before a friend told me I was wrong, I also thought this. But unless the only definition of RPG is back to the old wizardry and might & magic games (man do I miss those!)... fundamentally speaking, ME pretty much works just like Dragon Age, from a mechanics perspective, except in space with guns. ME2 takes away the 'equipment' aspect of an RPG, for the most part, which is kinda wierd, but for the most part its very similar.

I reset the game when I lose health... (1)

RichiH (749257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859780)

Back when I still had enough time to play games, I used to play FPS on hardest mode, tried to use as little ammo as possible and re-started from the latest save game when I lost a single health point. That one time in Half Life where you walk along a pipe which crumbles and you fall onto a table cost me a week to master.

That poison gas in Doom 3 had me running around for ages, trying to find a hazmat suit before I resorted to running through it as fast as possible.

Weird? Yes. Rewarding as a hobby for me personally? Also yes.

Re:I reset the game when I lose health... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859838)

Back when I still had enough time to play games, I used to play FPS on hardest mode, tried to use as little ammo as possible and re-started from the latest save game when I lost a single health point.

Probably you have a slightly, um, unusual sense of how much time it takes for you to have "enough time to play games" ;) No, IANAGamer, although I occasionally do play games.

Her choice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859788)

I think that's 99% of the problem right there.

Unforgivable games (3, Interesting)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859800)

I've played some really unforgivable games in the past, one of them being Elvira II. The game always players to create spells based upon objects that they find. One of these objects is a prayer book, but there are 2 of them in the game, one that personally belongs to a priest and the other that is just a regular object.

Towards the end of the game, you ask the priest to perform a task for you, which he'll only do if you can find his prayer book. Surprise surprise, you created a spell from his prayer book and he won't accept the other one as it's not his.

These are the kind of game breaking events that I really don't like. I don't mind games where you can miss a secret in a game and after a certain point you can't access it anymore (I've put several into my game), but you should always be able to finish the main quest.

Re:Unforgivable games (1)

W2k (540424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859954)

Sadly traps like these are a time-honoured ingredient in adventure games... you reminded me of this ancient E2 node, well worth a read. []

Re:Unforgivable games (1)

martin_dk (1368035) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859956)

Introducing several exclusive main quests will do I think.

A game has a Princess and a Kingdom. Certain irreversible decisions prevents you from getting both. Certain decision paths may give you the opportunity to get both.

At the end of the game, you get some precious added value from just thinking how you perhaps could have made alternative crucial decisions.

All of your choises depend on luck, context and intention. These factors may or may not be deducable afterwards depending on the gameplay.

The structure of this possible decision matrix contains the morale, spirit, boundaries, irony and other abstract attributes of the game.

Certain complete success is boring. Dilemmas and other quirks in matrix are beautiful and interesting...

Re:Unforgivable games (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860754)

I've had a similar WTF moment in Phantasmagoria. The very last puzzle/challenge before finishing the game requires an item that should have been picked up near the beginning of the game, if you don't have it then you can't beat the puzzle or the game and you die.

Let's just say that after spending countless hours playing through it, I was rather miffed that I had to start all over, and I never did.

I'm ok with consequences (I was kinda sad to see my helicopter pilot explode in Deus Ex) but I'm not ok with game breaking consequences.

Inevitability ... (0)

Musically_ut (1054312) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859808)

... is something where DRM (or something similar) ironically might actually help.

"If you mess this chance up 3 times, your Game will be irrevocably made unplayable and you'll have to pay us more money to restart."

Though it can probably will be worked around, but then as the article itself says, most things can be anyway and it'll probably be a better shot than the Flash game.

Seriously (3, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859812)

Seriously? You were that involved in the game that the only thing you could consider was a reset to make sure it didn't happen?

I have been pretty heavily invested in games but never had an emotional reaction like this one.

As for choices in games... Very few offer any real choices at all. All too many appear to offer a choice, but the outcome is the same either way. A few offer choice that has a different immediate outcome, but you can put in some work to make it come out the same in the end. That last of them give choices that actually make a difference.

Mass Effect 2 is actually a good example of that. Towards the end, there's a time when you can choose to head to the end-game. Do so too early and you risk losing members of your crew along the way. Too late and you lose other crew members. And then they make you choose crew members to do perilous tasks. Again, if you choose the wrong ones, or fail to do your job well enough, others die. And the ending itself has choices that will affect the next game, since the ME games import from the previous game's save.

The choices in ME 2 were strong enough to make me think about actually playing again.

Fallout New Vegas also has serious choices. The choices you make will shape the city's present and future. They matter immediately and in the long-run both.

DragonRealms (a MUD) has a long history that has been shaped by players' actions. They once failed to protect the Warmage's guild and it now lies in a smoking ruin, and a new guildhall had to be constructed. They once failed to prevent an invasion and their towns were held hostage... They were forced to obey the laws of their captors or be arrested and sentenced to death.

Playing those games, even though I haven't -really- done anything that matters, I feel like I have. And that makes the game more fun.

Re:Seriously (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859982)

This is why I like role playing games - table top particularly. Granted you don't have the graphics unless your DM is also a good artist, but you can have infinite game play. You can still have linear aspects to games too (thinking dungeon crawl), but for the most part a good DM will allow the players to do anything and go anywhere. And then punish the characters for splitting the party, or running out of money.

Re:Seriously (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860090)

it's also stupid to reset at that point since.. you couldn't be able to play with them anyways. the game is practically over at that point. none of the locations depend on who you got with you and the plot is cut in the middle anyways.

basically I interpreted the killing of the npc's as an endgame listing of which q's you did and which you didn't. the sub quests don't offer that much, really, sadly.

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860502)

I stopped a game in mid play once because the actions of the main character where not my own choice and it pissed me off big time. .... I think it was some Warhammer game. I was controlling some midget at the time when the game decided that my controlling character will now betray his friends.

Well that was it, I would never do this so I stopped playing right there because when I control a character I make the choices.

Re:Seriously (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860582)

Fallout New Vegas also has serious choices. The choices you make will shape the city's present and future. They matter immediately and in the long-run both.

Fallout NV had a very good way of integrating a linear story in with choices. You had minor choices which changed attitudes towards you and then presented with a few massive choices. Then there was the faction and karma systems. Personally I found Fallout NV a lot more engaging, on my first play-through I thought siding with the NCR would be a good choice, they seemed alright but then they had me kill Mr House, then Papa Khan and I realised I was little more then a government sponsored assassin, but what was I to do, I'd made my bed so it was not like I could run off to Caesar. Of course I put a bullet into Papa Khan and sweet talked a treaty out of the new leader.

But the best integration of choice into a linear story to me is still Deus Ex. There seemed to be a hundred ways things could change without the linear story being taken away, the first choice you make in the game can influence what happens near the end.

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860832)

You don't have to kill Papa Khan, if you are willing to do some investigating you can end the situation peacefully and even influence what the Khans as a group do - I convinced them to leave the Mojave wastes altogether.

Replay value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859840)

If you can't deal with your actions having consequences in a game, maybe you need to play a different kind of game.

I think depending on the game, actions SHOULD have consequences. They sure did in the adventures of past days, especially Sierra's; sometimes, this was done wrongly (which usually meant that there was only one right action, and you had to figure out what it was by trial and error - annoying if the wrong choice meant death, highly frustrating if it made the game unwinnable later or something similar, without you knowing), but more often than not, it was done the right way, too.

And guess what, it added replay value, especially if there was no single right way through the game: you could play more than once, and experience what was essentially a different game each time.

One obvious example would be Indiana Jones IV, which, at some point, offers you three paths: the "team", "wits" and "fists" path. They all had their common points, of course (it was still the same game), but they differed significantly. But there were also many other games where smaller choices you made led to different outcomes later on.

People like to talk aboit violence, sex, etc (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859842)

I think this is the most potentially dangerous aspect of games. You can't re-load from a save, or do-over in life. Once you're dead, you're dead. I work at a university, and sometimes it seems like people don't really grasp that if you make a stupid choice, it might be permanent. I sometimes worry that video games might contribute to this attitude.

Re:People like to talk aboit violence, sex, etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860228)

I sometimes worry that video games might contribute to this attitude.

Nah, I think it's heavy metal music and porn that does it. And the lack of JESUS in one's life!

You're screwed Jewish Heavy Metal fans who like Nina Hartley movies!

Re:People like to talk aboit violence, sex, etc (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860260)

I... partly agree. But only partly.

There have certainly been times when I have thought that a game is going too far to cushion the player from consequences. You might remember Full Spectrum Warrior, which was released for the original Xbox somewhere around the mid-point of the console's life-span. It was essentially a military training simulator designed to teach infantry tactics which had been repurposed into a game (indeed, there were cheat codes to strip out the game elements and access the simulator itself). To be honest, it was a pretty good game, once you worked out that it wasn't a normal third person shooter and started to see it as more of a puzzle game.

There was, however, one thing that always struck me as extremely strange about it. The player was in command of a small squad of soldiers and if one of those soldiers died - *BANG* - game over screen, time to go back to the last checkpoint. This always felt bizarre to me for a piece of software that was basically a training simulator. Yes, you want your students to think hard about how to avoid casualties, but as the last decade has proven, no matter how careful you think you are being in wartime, casualties are going to happen sooner or later. And in real life, there wasn't going to be a game-over screen and a return to the last checkpoint. So you had a simulator which covered small-scale infantry tactics in a fair degree of detail - until the moment your own side took a casualty. I'm sure you can see the problems inherant in that.

However, while I will agree that people coming out of universities today (I do a fair amount of graduate recruitment and get to see a lot of new entrants to the job market) tend to have a poor understanding of consequences, I don't think for a moment that video games are the primary cause of this. I'd much rather look at the school system, where the errosion of discipline in the state school sector here in the UK has been almost complete, and where even serious misdemeanours such as assaults on other pupils or teachers are generally met with only derisory sanctions. It often feels like an inevitable moment in the early days of any new graduate's career these days involves their manager having to say: "Yes, you missed the deadline. No, you can't have a few more days, as that's not my decision to make and the customer isn't feeling forgiving. Note that this will have direct consequences for the company/organisation."

Re:People like to talk aboit violence, sex, etc (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860380)

Another aspect to this is that brains are planning machines, and they evaluate both positive and negative plans. It is useful to have a larger set of both positive and negative outcomes to be able to plan better. Videogames, by allowing the "do-over", help to amass this larger set. (In fact, most games, actually most play activity, has a significant learning component, generally due to a similar reason; while you may not get a "do-over" in every game, you are usually alive when the game finishes and can start a new game.)

Re:People like to talk aboit violence, sex, etc (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860740)

It's called suspension of disbelief. The important word there is disbelief.

Decisions in games (4, Interesting)

N1AK (864906) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859886)

The post certainly fits with the contradicting feelings I have on this issue. I have found the issue even more pronounced with some of the decisions in Fallout 3 & Fallout: New Vegas. I love the comparative level of choice the games present, but rarely end up taking too much advantage of it.

To give a spoiler based example from Fallout 3. I worked to get a snobby hotel to accept a bunch of Ghouls as residents. I avoided requests to kill of the Ghouls, to help the Ghouls break in instead and negotiated their admittance. Next time I visit the Ghouls had murdered the original residents. Obviously this wasn't the outcome I had intended, and my desire to go back and alter my decision nearly got the better of me. I still admire Bethesda for putting all those decisions, and the potentially unexpected consequences in there. It was a well crafted kick in the balls showing me that I was playing god and got it wrong.

Re:Decisions in games (1)

hat_eater (1376623) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860190)

Exactly this quest made me quit snooping the quest outcomes on the net.

How to accept the consequences (4, Funny)

Fixer40000 (1921598) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859946)

I love Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 even moreso. However when it came to the consequences of my actions I took two different approaches and for different reasons. Spoilers ahead gentlemen! At the end of the first game I let the council die. It was for all the right reasons, there was a giant spaceship Cthulu about to destroy all life as we knew it and I didn't want to lose vital military assets and threaten the survival of the Galaxy for some symbolic gesture. Turned out to be the 'wrong decision' in the overall theme of being the good guy and uniting all races in mass Effect 2 but I stuck with it because I would always have made that decision with the knowledge I had to hand and it also made the storyline and reactions to you on the citadel more interesting in the 2nd game. In the 2nd game though at the end there was one thing I had to change. It was the 'you have to respond to the capture of your crew instantly' part. When the crew was captured my first reaction was to finish the one mission I was in the middle of anyway because due to standard RPG meta-gaming I figured that the rescue would wait for me. When I turned up a little too late and half the crew was turned into mulch because of it I felt cheated because there wasn't any clue given that this would be the result of my actions. Even the 'crew kidnapping' event was kicked off by completing another mission meaning that you could only finish all the side-quests by leaving the important 'must do' thing until the end. With that I had to go back and correct my choice. It's easier to sit with the consequence of an action if there a good indication before-hand what that consequence is. In the case of Dragon Age there was no problem though. Want salt on your fries? SALT GOLEMS ATTACK THE CITY IN REVENGE! No salt? NOTHING CAN STOP THE GIANT SLUG DEMONS! Yes, the consequence of every decision you make will be bad regardless :)

Re:How to accept the consequences (1)

Fixer40000 (1921598) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860022)

Additionally, had I know the consequence of adding carriage returns to the my previous post would have had no effect on text formatting, I would not have bothered with them. Next time I will actually look at the preview.

Re:How to accept the consequences (1)

kshade (914666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860066)

At the end of the first game I let the council die. It was for all the right reasons, there was a giant spaceship Cthulu about to destroy all life as we knew it and I didn't want to lose vital military assets and threaten the survival of the Galaxy for some symbolic gesture. Turned out to be the 'wrong decision' in the overall theme of being the good guy and uniting all races in mass Effect 2 but I stuck with it because I would always have made that decision with the knowledge I had to hand and it also made the storyline and reactions to you on the citadel more interesting in the 2nd game

Yeah, it's stupid that not saving the fleeing council but instead focusing on the dreadnought that's ripping apart the citadel where millions of people might die is a "renegade" action. It's a friggin' elected council, those guys aren't "worth" more than any other person. Just elect a new representative and carry on, geez.

Re:How to accept the consequences (2)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860660)

It's considered a renegade action because the implication in the game isn't that you're doing it for the reasons stated in this thread, but that you're doing it because you're sick of aliens running the galaxy and you deliberately let the council die to pave the way for humanity to rule.

Re:How to accept the consequences (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860698)

I feel cheated by the decision in that one DLC (I forget which it was) for ME1, where you storm the lair of a guy holding several people hostage. At the end, you're given the choice to kill him, but the hostages will die, or let him go and save the hostages. I chose to kill him, figuring that letting him go saves more lives in the short term, but costs many more in the long run. And then I got evil points for it. WTF?

I also felt pretty cheated by the decision at the end of the quest for the Arl's manor. I got to the room where the demon-possessed kid was, had killed the mage in the dungeons earlier, so the only way to go into the Fade to save him was to fetch mages from the Circle. So I killed the kid, and everyone called me a heinous monster. Gee, I'm sorry I didn't go on a week-long side trip, letting the demon rampage and kill everyone. That would have been such a better outcome.

***SPOILER*** (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34859972)

Darn! Next time tag it!

The key word is "balance"... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34859990)

A world where your choices have essentially no effect is just a rail shooter, with slightly greater or lesser twistiness in the rails. The "shooter" mechanic(whether it be literal shooting, RPG, or whatever) had better be compelling. If it is, great, you've got a game that is perfectly decent, if probably not the most emotionally involving of all time. If the mechanic sucks, you've just created another game to put on the pile of examples of why "rail shooter" is practically a four letter word in gaming circles...

On the other hand, there are some Really. Fucking. Annoying. ways to do "consequences"(many of them mirror life; but if I wanted that I wouldn't buy your damn game). The worst is probably "one true path(we just aren't telling)": this unwholesome bastard abomination is what you get when the only winnable path is, in fact, as linear as the rail shooter scenario; but the world is enough of a sandbox that you can easily deviate from that one true path in myriad illogical ways. Punishments for stupidity are fine; punishments for failure to use your telepathic powers to intuit, during level one, which apparently useless bits of scene clutter you'll need to have on level ten is bullshit. Also annoying are the "completionist heaven" ones. Homeworld, an otherwise pretty brilliant game, suffered from this. Since each level started you out with what you had accumulated the level before, you were quickly led to realize that after "beating" a given level you were semi-required to set your harvesters to work and wait until every RU in the entire level was in your coffers(extra credit for telepathically knowing which ships you should pre-build so as to not die early in the next level, and which you should avoid building because some deus ex machina is going to give you the superior replacement...)

Unguessable insta-death is also extremely irksome. The original Alone in the Dark suffered from it in a bad way. Hey, I'm in a scary house. I have to go around opening doors... Woops, opening that door immediately drops me to a cutscene of my dying horribly, with no possible clues by which I could have inferred that it was different than any other door. I guess it is time to save-and-check my way around the entire damn place...

Re:The key word is "balance"... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860092)

Oh, and while I'm whining, one more thing:

Obviously, most types of game just don't work if they make you a deity in a sandbox and let you do whatever you want, without limitation. No challenge. However, Please. Please. Please. impose limits on the character in some way such that maintaining suspension of disbelief does not overwhelm my puny geek arms.

If I have a rocket launcher, with which I have just blown multiple armored cybernetic monstrosities to hell, I Do Not Need the "yellow keycard" to get through that flimsy looking door. I am a walking tank and can make my own damn door. Now, I may not be able to make it over the lava pit without overriding the bridge controls on deck 4; but don't tell me that a flimsy little door is standing in my way.

Let's not even talk about what happens when games that do claim to be god-in-a-sandbox try to impose limits enough to turn themselves back into games(fuck you Black and White...) Oh, cool, I can throw rocks at stuff. Wait, because this quest character is an atheist I can't pick him up? WTF? I can pick up bloody inanimate objects, and animals too stupid to have belief states, but I can't pick up this one specific human?(despite the fact that I can gank humans who worship opposing gods and not me without trouble...) Cool. I have worshipers. Wait a moment, unless I tend to their pitiful needs every second their population withers and dies... According to the back story, I came into existence about 10 minutes ago. How the hell have that survived this long, but suddenly can't last an hour without my constantly dumping miracle food into their worthless bellies? Fuck it. I'm going to play Dungeon Keeper 2...

Re:The key word is "balance"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860300)

And while I'm still whining, here's another shout-out:

The HL2 gravity gun. Enormous fun; but that bastard clubs you right in the face with "Hi, I'm actually just a game mechanic, not a self-consistent device!" approximately every 15 seconds. So, I can pick up big, dangerous looking sawmill blades(at least a CM thick, by the looks of them, and not your wimpy little handheld circular saw diameter, either.) and large compressed gas cylinders(precise size not specified; but can't be less than 50lbs full) and fling them at incredible speeds; but I cannot even poke any enemy except a headcrab. Nope, no "gradual change in ability to manipulate objects based on object mass" just "trivially movable object/utterly immobile object/headcrab(can knock back, cannot pick up, despite weighting substantially less than most trivially movable objects)/every other type of enemy(can't even nudge. If I've already picked up a movable object, I can throw it so hard that it knocks them backward and/or bisects them; but without something picked up, cannot even give them a gentle tap...)"

I'm sooo glad you went to all the trouble of building a sophisticated physics engine there guys....

Re:The key word is "balance"... (3, Informative)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860238)

Unguessable insta-death is also extremely irksome.

Unless, of course, you're playing Nethack, where it's just one more feature. ;-)

The truth is that, unless they read a lot of spoilers before going in, Nethack kills newbies with delightful regularity. And even reading the spoilers doesn't always help, because you may not remember something crucial until it's killed you once of twice. The trick is to understand that you're really playing meta-Nethack, where each of those deaths teaches you something new about the world.

Fallout did this (2)

Andtalath (1074376) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860018)

Both the first and second fallout gave you an opportunity to kill EVERYONE.
Even essential characters.

You even gained reasonable profit for it.

However, the problem was that you never knew when someone you killed was actually important for something later on.

So, in the end, killing people was risky business.

I hated fallout for that.

Re:Fallout did this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860154)

gave you an opportunity...hated fallout for that

What happen? (1)

kshade (914666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860026)

I wonder if he lost some of the major NPCs by assigning them the wrong tasks and/or the crew of the ship.

Spoilers ahead!
On my first play through I messed around for a bit before starting the final mission and lost the entire Normandy II crew in a horrible, graphic way. I really didn't expect it and actually felt bad for them. Second time playing only Thane bit the dust because I don't want to see him in ME3 :>

Bioware is good at that (1)

SteelKidney (1964470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860028)

I had the same reaction in Dragon Age: Awakening when I thought I'd caused the destruction of my keep and everyone I'd left in it. Personally, I like it. Mindless hack 'n' slash has its place, but it takes some real work to provoke real reactions in games. Fallout and Fallout 2 had that ability. That's why I'm kind of looking forward to their MMO- I usually don't get into them much, but if Bioware puts this kind of element into it, I think I'd really like it.

I want to see the whole game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860046)

I really am not worried about what happens, it's fun and I'd like to see it all. But I want to be able to clear/see it all without playing 2-3 hours of the same stuff again for just one scene. That's just a horribly annoying thing many publishers caused in the past.

Good-evil-neutral is about as much as will work- three playthroughs is about as far as marginally different events and more or less entirely different dialogue will carry, and while the storyline need not be predictable I need to know whether I'm still on track to the things I haven't seen yet.

Heavy Rain (2)

macactionhero (1451789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860062)

Heavy Rain for the PS3 is all about the coices you make. You end up playing as 4 different characters throughout the game, and if you are careless, some of them will die. The game auto-saves though, so you are forced to continue playing to see the outcome that you have created. It give you quite a bit of those "aww crap! I should have done that differently!" moments.

Re:Heavy Rain (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860294)

Yeah, been reading about it at [] . Pretty intrigued by it, even went so far as to purchase one of the guy's earlier games on PC (Indigo Prophecy). I like playing through alternate endings.

And then of course there's a the brief flash game, One Chance [] that they enjoyed, since it tries hard to prevent you from playing again on your computer and altering your outcome. It's a bit heavy-handed, since there's really just one "win" ending (sort of). I prefer the games that give you a variety of outcomes. Which Heavy Rain seems to be pretty promising in that regard.

Alpha Protocol (1)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860162)

All this talk of choices and no one has mentioned Alpha Protocol? Egads, that's a damned travesty.
If you want a game where choices matter, where the conversations are interesting and also how you conduct them matter, where even your play style impacts the game, then get Alpha Protocol. There are so many variables in that game that I'm on my 3rd playthrough and I'm still having a blast. The writing and voice acting is consistently fantastic and it's a shame that more people haven't played it. It's easily one of the best RPGs of last year but then, what else can you expect from Obsidian? Sure their games are glitchy but those guys know how to create an engrossing world better than anyone.

Re:Alpha Protocol (2)

sp1nny (1350037) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860668)

Sure their games are glitchy but...

Every single aspect of Alpha Protocol apart from the choices/consequences system is utterly mediocre.

The world is full of pansies now. (2)

Kincaidia (927521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860200)

Does anyone remember the old days of Everquest? Now THERE were consequences. You've played played the character for YEARS as opposed to a measly 50 hours, and you kill one random fish and "Feel the hatred of an entire race"... Or part of your epic quest requires you to sacrifice being able to enter your home city without being attacked. So people worrying about small forks in a game where you can always just start over make me chuckle inside. Oh, how soft we've gotten... and I'm sure the Barbarians of Halas still hate my ranger, as well as the High Elves, just for killing that Royal Fish in Lake Rathetear... Consequences make you care.

Multiplayer games (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860248)

You cant reset other people memories about what you did.

I remember that scene (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860378)


I remember that scene, and it was the worst scripted part of the game; not only do all the main characters *suddenly* hop onto a shuttle for NO REASON (other than to avoid their capture / death) when you start whatever mission you were planning to do, but once they've gone (including Shephard) and the attack begins, control of the game inexplicably shifts to another (albeit cool) character. It makes no sense what so ever, seriously disrupts game flow, and was the only thing I disliked in that game. I think OP should play more games so he/she can tell when something fishy and out of your control is about to happen (e.g. end of HL2 EP2), to me the biggest hint that bad things were about to happen was the departure of every single well known character from the Normandy on a shuttle to do the next mission, when there was no reason to do so.

For argument's sake (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860416)

If you are faced with such dramatic and irrevocable choices, clearly you are not so much playing a game as "following a script".

In a game - like say chess, Oblivion or EVE Online, the real firm choices are made at the beginning - what color do you want to play? What race do you want to be?

The rest of the experience is a cumulative result of many little decisions that have minor consequences but are not necessarily game changing in themselves.

Taking a pawn or losing a pawn will usually not cost you the game. But lose enough pawns and you'll get enemy pieces in your rear. You don't HAVE to join the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion and it's not necessary to finish the game, however it will affect your perception of the game world. Training the wrong skills in EVE won't cripple your character, but it will cost you time.

Whereas in a script that passes itself off for a game, which sadly includes most "games" today, you are often faced with forks in the path you are going down and have to choose A or B, with immediate and irrevocable consequences. Developers will argue game balance and coding issues, but you have to remember that these "forks" ONLY exist to try and cover up the fact that the game is a linear, boring piece of shit and they are trying to make it a little more interesting.

Guess what kind of games I like to play?

The "Reality" Setting (1)

jlaprise1 (1042514) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860420)

Speaking of choices in games, every now and then I wish that games would have a "reality" setting. In FPS games, this might manifest as "Oh look. I shot a police officer and now every police officer within a couple of miles is gunning for me." Maybe the other guy is a good shot too...oh, head shot? So sorry.

Maybe every 20th game should automatically start in reality mode.

This is not a diatribe against violence, simply the occasional reminder that virtual violence and lethality are very different than their real analogs.

Re:The "Reality" Setting (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860796)

To be perfectly honest, most games are so devoid of real choices and an actual interactive story these days that it's exactly like a poorly written B movie. Even games like Mass Effect only barely scratched the surface of what's possible. Most just simply railroad you into a linear storyline and you're just shooting your way from cut scene to cut scene.

Of course what really pisses me off is the choke-point to drive the story along. One of my favorite games of all time is Deus Ex. But there is one point in the game where you are literally forced to chose one side (the other isn't an option at all) despite quite possibly playing the game 100% counter to that up to that point. It was quite simply "your adventure in role-playing is over". From that point onward it was simply a typical FPS and nothing you did made any difference at all. If they give you the option of being good or bad, then they need to have good and bad endings. Or if it's linear, make it realistic. Mafia (the original) did a good job of this as you started the game like GTA3 (which also did a good job, IMO) just doing stuff, but by the time you realized how far you were in, it was simply too late to turn back. The ending for both was also well done and appropriate. Note Mafia 2 fails utterly in this aspect - it feels "console" in everything from the tight physical level design, linear story, and lack of real choices. I'd rather play the original than waste my time on $40 worth of hollow eye-candy.

Of course, the biggest problem that I have with games isn't the linear storyline, but the fact that they have dumbed-down the games to console levels. That is, the OP just simply was conditioned to reset to a save game a few minutes earlier. The best thing about games in the past was that you had to survive the entire level/area/etc in one go. There also were no hint books or guides. You simply had to persevere. Now you can save anywhere and there's a guide the day the game comes out. If I don't like it, I can just do it over again. Start again with full health and try again from five minutes back.

Compare this to Doom or Quake (or most of the games based off of them). Your stats, weapons, and ammo is kept between levels. You must do the entire thing in one go, and have enough supplies left over to survive the NEXT one as well(Doom itself, less so, games like Hexen moreso). I let my son play it and he just simply gave up and walked away for the first few days as it was "too hard". Shame, really, since the ending in both games was epic at the time - I'd worked for ages to get to the final battle and *barely* managed to win it.

Sounds like somebody... (1)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860438) lazy with side quests. It's your own lazy fault if your crew dies there. I actually didn't find out that would happen until someone told me, because as a good RPG gamer, I did every side quest I could get my grubby little mitts on before finishing the main quest line.

RTS games, lots of irreversible consequences (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860474)

Real-time strategy games have lots of irreversible consequences. It's the fact that you take them all the time which makes it easy. The clock is running, and your enemy is building an army too. No choice is also a choice. To construct that new base means you take a risk. Not to build it is also a risk. Those are all make-or-break moments.

The only difference is perhaps that a single game doesn't last all that long, and therefore a failure is not too bad. Also, it's often possible to hit pause and save the game before making an important decision in a big game against AI.

Similar feeling in a different genre (1)

VickiM (920888) | more than 3 years ago | (#34860594)

I used to play a lot of Harvest Moon games, where you can court and eventually marry someone in town. In some of the games, it is easier to get the girls to fall for you, and this has been my downfall. While trying to be a basically nice guy to everyone, three girls fell head-over-heels, and I felt like a complete tool when one of them confronted me after I proposed to a different one. I never quite finished that game, and I never again proposed to anyone in a Harvest Moon or Rune Factory (spin off) game. The graphics aren't immersive and the people are a bit stereotypical, but the consequences to your actions feel real when you toy with emotions. I enjoy raising farm animals, but it's easier to handle regular, linear RPGs without feeling like a jerk.

You Only Live Once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34860792)

No discussion about irreversible consequences in games can be complete without mentioning it:

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