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Let's talk about choice in videogames [roundtable]
 
It's one thing that seems to be all the rage these days. I don't think I've played many games in which I'm forced to make a "moral choice" but I would like to explore that aspect of gaming. Firstly, I'd like you guys to please suggest some games (I play games on the PC) by the way. that make smart use of open choice system without it feeling arbitrarily described as good or evil or just having an immediate effect and then never being referred to again, ever.

I think Mass Effect do a good job at this, no? Also, let's discuss what's wrong with a lot of choice systems today. Sounds fun, right?

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Posted: 10/19/10, 00:59:32  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 20:37:14
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It's an illusion in games and something that's overrated imo. I guess Fallout and Oblivion both did it as well and it did actually affect the game/gameplay quite a bit.

Can't think of anything else beyond those two.
Posted: 10/19/10, 01:17:57
The whole moral choice thing in games usually bores me, for a lot of reasons I have described elsewhere. The main flaw though is the fact that games tend to have this very simplistic set-up where things are clearly right or clearly wrong, and even the ones that try to avoid that always tend to set up these dumb situations like "is it ok to kill an innocent to protect my cover to take down a huge evil crime boss?" or whatever, there isn't much subtlety involved.

One series that I think does it in an interesting matter is some of the games in the Shin Megami series, because it's not always as straight-forward as right versus wrong. It's usually more like... do you choose to follow the will of god (law), or do you choose to let man create his own will (neutral), or do you choose to let each individual create their own will (chaos). It has a 9 point grid that also includes light / neutral / dark but even that isn't always about right and wrong, since light is very closely aligned to following the will of god and neutral is closely aligned to following the will of society and dark is closely aligned to everyone doing whatever they want, but the game itself doesn't necessarily say one path is right and one is wrong or anything.

If you're interested in this, both of the DS games are pretty good... Devil Survivor and Strange Journey. Persona 4 on PS2 is by far my favorite Shin Megami game but it doesn't really have you making the moral choices quite so much... though that still exists.
Posted: 10/19/10, 01:26:28  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 01:27:32
Yeah, I think Fallout 3 is the only game I've played with moral choices that effect the game.

Of course, I'm pretty sure the Fable series is supposed to be huge with this. Also KOTOR or something. And apparently even Epic Mickey has a system like that in place.

Personally, I'm not a fan of it. I'd rather just play through a game that can only be played one way. I hate making decisions and I hate multiple paths/options in long games (and these games are usually long) because I know I'm missing out on other stuff, and I usually only have it in me to play through long games once.

Not a fan. Hell, I almost had a panic attack while playing through Dragon Quest V and I had to choose a wife. I don't like multiple game changing options!
Posted: 10/19/10, 01:27:44
Tranquilo said:
It's one thing that seems to be all the rage these days. I don't think I've played many games in which I'm forced to make a "moral choice" but I would like to explore that aspect of gaming. Firstly, I'd like you guys to please suggest some games (I play games on the PC) by the way. that make smart use of open choice system without it feeling arbitrarily described as good or evil or just having an immediate effect and then never being referred to again, ever.

I think Mass Effect do a good job at this, no? Also, let's discuss what's wrong with a lot of choice systems today. Sounds fun, right?

Go get Planescape Torment off of GoG. It's an absolutely fantastic crpg and does a much, much better job of implementing the types of moral choices you are talking about than Mass Effect, which I love but is very black and white.

Also Deus Ex is one of the best ever at this.
Posted: 10/19/10, 01:28:09  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 01:31:37
I don't like how you get a reputation based on what you do. If I kill some guy and throw his body in a ditch and no one ever finds out, then how come I can walk into town and have people calling me a monster? If nobody knows then that shouldn't affect how others view me. The only time that sort of thing really made sense to me is in KotoR when doing evil things pushes you closer to the Dark Side.
Posted: 10/19/10, 01:46:52
Het_Nkik said:
...
Personally, I'm not a fan of it. I'd rather just play through a game that can only be played one way. I hate making decisions and I hate multiple paths/options in long games (and these games are usually long) because I know I'm missing out on other stuff, and I usually only have it in me to play through long games once.

Not a fan. Hell, I almost had a panic attack while playing through Dragon Quest V and I had to choose a wife. I don't like multiple game changing options!

i like some amount of choice, but i mostly agree with you.

i never finished Chrono Cross because of this. i'm a perfectionist and unfortunately my time is rather limited. i like big games, but i don't like the idea of a game so big that a few simple choices early on require me to REPLAY and invest a bunch of time AGAIN to see different possibilities through.
Posted: 10/19/10, 02:11:40
That's prettymuch my feeling on it. Any game that uses choice to lock off major sections of the game from you needs to be naturaly short and replayable (like Starfox Command, although that's not really the kinda choice the topic is about). Massively long quests that do this are just annoying.
Posted: 10/19/10, 10:08:57
I love choice in video games. While I don't always end up going back to replay a game in different ways, I do like having the ability to do something different each time. It makes it more fun and exciting for me. If I really am worried about how something will happen, I can always go online to find out the results of each action, and then replay that section to get the desired result.
Posted: 10/19/10, 10:24:25
You know, choice in video games don't have to be about making good or bad decisions. I look at choice as being able to play a game the way you choose to rather than the way the developers intended for it to be played. My perfect example of this is Pokemon. The idea of this game is for you to be a pokemon master and stop Team whoever. The beauty of this game is that you can accomplish these tasks in a multitude of ways. You can choose to beat everybody using all water types, flying types, poison types, etc. You can choose to do this with nothing but pre-evolved pokemon or fully evolved pokemon. A team full of female pokemon. Or you can even do it with just one bad ass pokemon if you choose to.

I love games like that. Not a big fan of moral choice games *coughzenoniacough
Posted: 10/19/10, 10:28:22
The game series that incorporates choice better than any other I've played is probably Fire Emblem. When a character dies in FE, it's gone forever, so you have to choose whether to continue the game with that character gone, or to start the level over. That choice seriously impacts how you play the rest of the game.
Posted: 10/19/10, 11:30:31
@Secret_Tunnel Oblivion had some kind of set-up where you could do certain crimes and get away with them depending on who saw or was around at the time... but it was kind of sketchy as to what set it off. I was trying to get into the thieving mechanics but it was annoying sneaking around a house and then out of nowhere someone 3 rooms down yells and everyone starts running...

@bpumpkin777 I agree to a certain extent, though it's not really a moral choice, unless it is a matter of sacrificing one character to save another or whatever. Plus when someone I really like died I'd always just restart the mission anyway, or in more recent games, restart from the last checkpoint.
Posted: 10/19/10, 16:21:49  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 16:27:11
Oldmanwinter said:
Go get Planescape Torment off of GoG. It's an absolutely fantastic crpg and does a much, much better job of implementing the types of moral choices you are talking about than Mass Effect, which I love but is very black and white.

Also Deus Ex is one of the best ever at this.

I want to second your last point about Deus Ex. It's absolutely amazing to me that a game that came out 10 years ago still sets the standard for morality and choice in games.

So many games that emphasize morality and choice do little beyond have those concepts function as really obvious toggles. Make "bad" choice, get "bad" powers. Make "good" choice get "good" bonus. Hell, inFamous, while fun, had the most insulting implementation of this system, where the game would pause and Cole would pontificate about how action X was EVIL and action Y was GOOD.

Awful.

Deus Ex did it right by making the choices almost all related to the gameplay and having them occur in real time. It's also not a completely black and white, good and evil kind of system. Why more games don't just rip it off exactly, I'll never know. Instead we get systems in which I can be a completely evil asshole, then go and donate a bunch of money to a church and become completely good in a matter of seconds. It's awful.
Posted: 10/19/10, 18:28:41
Because it's probably really hard and time consuming to make a game with real choice. And gamers hate having to choose. They hate missing stuff, for the most part. Molyneaux always talks about how he had to cut all the consequence out of co-op Fable because testers HATED having other people fuck around with their world. (Even though might have just cut it for time constraints.)

Also, the more elaborate game presentation get, the more limiting it is to true freedom. People think Mass Effect is too restricted, and even that game has supposedly millions of dollars worth of content that most players will never see. Fallout 3 was supposed to have, like, 70 endings, and that got totally cut down. (Were they ever going to animate all of those endings?)

Warren Spector, at least, is devoted to choice, even in a Mickey Mouse game.

Anyway, I'm open to the idea of choice, but I'm usually just disappointed when devs half-ass it. While some people loved the 'freedom' of RDR, I was disappointed at how limited my possible interactions were, especially when interacting with small characters and passerby. The illusion was just broken over and over for me. I'd love to see a true world simulation that reacted to you in a believable, unpredictable way, but we're far away from that point. GTA did a good job of simulating chaos, though.

I think one of the most interesting examples of choice was Way of the Samurai, a short, replayable branching action game with TONS of possible endings. You really did create your own story. Adventure games can also focus on branching, since they don't have to worry about having much gameplay. Maniac Mansion had a certain amount of freedom. And Shadow of Destiny was a cool PS2 adventure game with tons of possible branch points. It was kind of a choose-your-own-adventure, but that's a viable path. And it's something games can do that movies and (non-choose-your-own-adventure) books can't.

Certain games that are purely mechanics-based, like River City Ransom and Shiren the Wanderer also give you a ton of choice and freedom in the gameplay, even though the story is fixed. That's probably a lot more important to me. I should feel in control and have some authority of SOME aspect of the experience. Otherwise, what's the point?


Ramble.
Posted: 10/19/10, 19:45:49  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 19:46:28
@anandxxx
Haha you get cool points for mentioning Shadow Of Destiny. I've never played it myself but I've watched my brother play it a TON and he swears by it, probably only cuz it's an obscure game and if it sold more than a hundred copies good luck getting him to try and play it. My brother relishes in playing underground games... It's almost surreal to hear someone else mention that game. I'd swear the game was made just for him, if not BY him. But yeah, it does seem that game offered many branching paths.
Posted: 10/19/10, 19:55:45
My first cool points ever!!

No, that game is pretty cool, and I don't even really play adventure games.

If you want to get him a perfect birthday present, Time Hollow on the DS is an obscure adventure game by the creators of Shadow of Destiny.
Posted: 10/19/10, 20:35:09
I don't like choice in video games.
Posted: 10/19/10, 20:39:31
@Zero
That's pretty much what I said. In Fire Emblem, you have to make a choice as to whether to continue the game with that character gone forever, or restart the level. Not only does it affect how you play the rest of the game, it affects the difficulty of the game as well. The OP said he was looking for games that incorporate choices that aren't good or evil necessarily.
Posted: 10/19/10, 23:10:16  - Edited by 
 on: 10/19/10, 23:11:12
anandxxx said:
I think one of the most interesting examples of choice was Way of the Samurai, a short, replayable branching action game with TONS of possible endings.

Even better is Starfox 64, short with a ton of choices involved in the various paths through the game. Mind you it had no moral choices to speak of, but choices nonetheless. I played through that game so many times, in large part because you could decide on the fly (no pun intended) which way to go through it.

Something like that, combined with "moral" choices, could be interesting. Mind you, "moral" choices kind of lose their weight if you keep replaying the game to eventually try them all out...

@bpumpkin777 Oh I thought he was specifically looking for moral choices.
Posted: 10/19/10, 23:44:07
@bpumpkin777

Actually, you bring up a good point with Fire Emblem. Those are choices that affect gameplay, and I'm all for that type of choice. The choice that I don't like are those that simply affect the story, because those are stupid.

Star Fox 64 is a good example too. Choose your path = a different set of gameplay challenges.

Kal-El, you're making me want to give Deus Ex a shot. Choices impacting gameplay is alright in my book.
Posted: 10/20/10, 00:01:11
bpumpkin777 said:
The game series that incorporates choice better than any other I've played is probably Fire Emblem. When a character dies in FE, it's gone forever, so you have to choose whether to continue the game with that character gone, or to start the level over. That choice seriously impacts how you play the rest of the game.

To be honest, I've never understood people that restart missions in Fire Emblem games upon character death. If one of the appeals of the series is permanent character death, why negate that by restarting? That just makes it like every other SRPG.

And that's a weird selection for how choice is handled in games. It's like saying a Mario game gives you the "choice" of playing through the whole thing in one life if you hit the reset button every time you die.

/ramble
Posted: 10/20/10, 00:09:14
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