Thursday, June 25, 2009


I've been playing Fallout 3 recently, and it strikes me how often missions and characters relate. A character from one city wants me to kill or capture a character in another city. I'm already on a mission from the second person, and I won't be able to finish it if I accept the new mission. I can only choose one mission or the other, one person or the other.

In that scenario, I can see the choice and at least vaguely know the possible consequences. That's different from choices in other games.

In this interview with Daniel Erickson and James Ohlen from Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic team, there's one point in which Erickson says this:
So you killed the captain. If you had spared the captain, you know the pods that come ripping through the walls? He knows about those. He’s not some junior officer. You don’t go down that path at all if you spare the captain.

As soon as those pods come, he’s like, “Oh those are terrible, get away from those, we’re going to do this…” the whole adventure goes on a different track.

But you can’t reload and find that out.
In that scenario, the player doesn't know the possible consequences of a choice. In fact, the player might not even realize a choice with significant consequences has been made. You might kill the captain, get hurt by the pods, and never consider that the captain could have been aware of the danger and warned you.

Is that a problem? If the player doesn't know a significant choice has been made, is there any thrill to be had from making that choice? Yes and no.

An invisible choice still acts as a dynamic... as a variable which improves replayability and offers the player a unique, personal adventure. And by not presenting possible consequences with a choice, that choice is more likely to be a natural act of personality (real or pretend) than a calculated attempt by the player to direct events. Think of it like acting versus directing in a film; you can either experience and respond to events or you can script them.

But there's certainly a thrill in knowing the choice you're about to make is important or realizing a past choice had a significant effect.

Of course, in online multiplayer games, a player might be made aware of any or all possible consequences by fellow players. It's important to recognize that such spoilers needn't be solicited to be received. MMO players are always dropping spoilers in public chat channels. Friends often drop spoilers in private conversations without realizing they've done so or realizing you didn't want them to. This, I believe, will be one of Bioware's major hurdles in their work on SW:TOR.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on choice in games? Do you prefer invisible choices, overt choices, or a mix? Is one type more appropriate in some games than others?


  1. I love choices with long far reaching consequences. Adding romances to KOTOR and BG2 and other such games awas a great idea, although they aren't as fleshed out in KOTOR2 as KOTOR one and in KOTOR 1 as well as BG2, they still exist. They should totally do fully fleshed out romances in SWTORO and make it a high priority. It will not only add a lot to this (decision trees up the wazoo) but it will also enable all kinds of banter and even cat/dog fights :P

  2. Yeah, one of the drawbacks of SW:TOR being completely voiced is that the expense will probably dissuade them from including a lot of banter. Non-plot dialog is technical not essential, but it can be a tremendous tool in making audiences care about characters and fleshing out relationships between them.

  3. Has BioWare defined exactly what they mean by "completely voiced" though? It could be something as simple as every NPC you speak to has a few random soundbytes (which is becoming more and more common in MMORPGs anyway) then you're still reading the actual dialogue.

    I'm guessing that will be the case for all the side-quests, etc. but the main storyline will have cinematics and voiceovers much like Mass Effect and Guild Wars.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.