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When are Choices Trivial Choices

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I have to admit to a fatal game designer flaw: I LOVE detail. To me, the game world is alive when you get a choice of, say, not just bullets, but .45 hollow-point ACP rounds. I'm never quite sure, though, when I'm getting carried away and including nitpicky detail. How do you know if you're giving the player trivial choices? Take a recent example I've been working on for a starship that can carry cargo. Trade is anemic in most space games, and I thought one way to bolster it would be to have resource tradeoffs in terms of cargo that can be carried-- e.g., do you have tanks for compressed liquids, pressurized holds for organic cargo, magnetic bottles for exotic particles, etc... and can they be affected by what you haul-- carry trash in your organic holds, or radioactives etc. and you'll need to deal with it at dock. Or a more broad example would be the ammo I mentioned. Obviously, genre matters, but as a general rule, would you say detail is safe provided that it causes the player to make a critical choice? For instance, in the type of foe they face, or how many slots for cargo modules they have on a ship?

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Agreed, choice for choice's sake is bad. But if making a choice allows me to optimize my character, I like it.

It needs to well documented somewhere though. I don't like when I am faced with 10 decisions, but no description on what they do.

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I think details, if done right, rarely detract from a game, because different people worry about different things. Some players want to specify the color of their vests down to the RGB code, while others want to get every +.1% of bonus to their attack. Biologists will dismiss your game as superficial if you don't include ecology and waste rules, while historians will scoff at your linear and over-simplified tech tree.

The trick, as pointed in another thread, is automatically setting sensible defaults, but letting players drill down and micromanage to their heart's content. The best 4X games do that pretty well.

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Quote:
Original post by ruby-lang
The trick, as pointed in another thread, is automatically setting sensible defaults

I think this is the most important. A choice is almost always okay if it only changes the game when the player chooses to deviate from the obvious. The interface can usually be held responsible for this task. An obvious example would be an action on a door always defaulting to open/close. A less obvious example would be a warrior unit defaulting as the first construction project of a new city in Civilization.

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When the choice makes a difference to how I play the game it is important to me.


My favorite choices in a game definately would come from Deus Ex 1. I had a backpack and that backpack had very limited size. I could not store everything I wanted to in that backpack. For example I HAD to have the rocket launcher which immediately limited my other choices. Add in a sniper rifle, a pistol, and that special sword later in the game and my options were fairly limited into what I could cram in the nooks and crannies. I'd often run around with candy bars only to find something else that I HAD to have and I'd eat the candy bars. I'd spend 3-5 minutes agonizing over what I could get rid of in order to fit my newest toy into my backpack.

To me its when a choice is trivial that it starts getting annoying. Some things like appearance are a meh to me unless its really ugly. But its those choices where there really is no choice and there is no consequence to the choice.

So like in Deus Ex my choice to lug around a rocket launcher made many fights with robots easier because I could quickly and efficiently take them out. At the same time the consequence was I had to pick what I carried around alot more carefully.

So to me a choice for the sake of a choice will more than likely just annoy me. So for ammo if you give me normal shot, armor peircing, and high explosive shot but each one takes 3 hits to kill 99% of the enemies I'm going to find the choice trivial and annoying. If in your ship example I have to chose between cargo (money) and weapons or speed (attack / defense) that starts becoming a non-trivial choice.

So to sum up my rambling. Give me benefits and consequences to my choices.

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The more weight the choice has in other areas of the game the less trivial it becomes.

Say in your space tradeing example players have a choice of attaching to thier ship a number of different cargo containers. Liquid tanks for fuel, water, maybe even beer. Airtight cargo pods for plants and animals. simple cargo pods for ammo, raw materials, other goods.

If left just to this, the choice of what cargo pods to attach to your craft is trivial. Only attach the pods required to haul the goods in question. Not really much of a choice at all really.

However, if other aspects of the game were dependant on the cargo container choice. Then more weight is placed upon the choice lifting it from trivality.

If certain sectors of space were occupied with pirates whom largely attack ships with certain cargo container types. Or gangs in some sectors left ships alone if they flew with a particular cargo pod type. Or the armies of the star league were stopping to board ships with certain cargo pod types. Or any number of gameplay reason why it might be a better idea to/not to use a certain cargo container type.

Another possability is ammo held in typical cargo pods could easily blow up takeing the ship with it in a firefight. But sealing them away in cargo pods ment for liquids reduces that effect, however it only allows you to carry half as much per pod. Not to mention that cartain sectors of space are filled with pirates whom know about this trick, and thus may be more prone to attacking ships with liquid cargo pods.

In this way just the choice of cargo pods can influence the route one takes so as to avoid troublesome sectors.

A choice won't be trivial as long as it effects more than one gameplay mechanisam, and its balanced enough so as not to force a redundant decision(I.E. ultimate weapon with unlimited ammo VS. pea shooter with 10 shots, which would you choose?)

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When the choice makes a difference in how I perceive the game, then it matters.

The example of this is character appearances in RPGs. Being cool looking is nearly as important as being more powerful. This applies to quite a large segment of the audience. Just see how much people will do in Guild Wars for special armor that behaves the same but looks nicer. It costs well literally 15 times as much as regular armor and no benefits besides looks.

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Quote:
Original post by Ezbez
When the choice makes a difference in how I perceive the game, then it matters.

The example of this is character appearances in RPGs. Being cool looking is nearly as important as being more powerful. This applies to quite a large segment of the audience. Just see how much people will do in Guild Wars for special armor that behaves the same but looks nicer. It costs well literally 15 times as much as regular armor and no benefits besides looks.


Not to argue, just a question. Guild Wars being a multiplayer game and all.

Would you go out of your way to purchase simular special looking armor (that is exactly the same as regular armor) in a single player RPG like say Final Fantasy?

I mean without the community of a multiplayer game and potential social status of owning/wearing unique graphical items, do such graphical choices really make a difference in how you percieve a single player game?

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I think a good rule to follow is to not throw everything at the player at once. Back to the ship cargo thing - it would probably be a good idea for the game to begin with a ship which is smaller/has less customizable options. Players don't like it when they have a ton of stuff thrown at them right off the bat, even if it is all genuinely important in some way.

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