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Artificially limiting player's choice

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Suppose you talk to your girl one day, and you decided to have a date two days from now. Later that day, you browse the net, and order a book, and it will be delivered 3 days from now. Then you go to a tailor, and order a new suit, and that will be done a week from now.

 

Now, let's say all this happens in a game.

Assuming the player and/or character is willing to do all three of those things, is not in any particular hurry, and has enough money, what sort of in-game reason would you give for forcing player to choose only one of those three. The sort of realistic reason that would actually make common sense, not just "picked 0 out of 1". And more, even though the player/character is not really in any particular hurry, what sort of reason would you create to make player care about how much in-game time will each choice take to complete ?

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The very essence of a game is the concept of artificially restricted choices, so don't overthink it too much. You can literally just present it as a 3-way choice if you like. Servant of the Lord gave some great suggestions for how you can cover it up with narrative, but you may not need to.

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In addition to what's been said above, present to the player the potential benefits of choosing one path or another.  It is a fine line, to be sure, but presenting choices to the player is often the key to making a game experience feel like one's own.  That sort of thing is the key to people talking to one another about the game, where player A says "oh well I made a date with my g/f so I was at this restaurant when some dude tried to hold up the place...!"  and player B goes:  "Awesome!  Well I got this book that had this creepy paper tucked in it that told me to meet some lady at midnight, I'm gonna play it out tonight and see what happens!".

 

Though, to echo what Kylotan said, you may not need to do much besides present the choice.  Take a game like the newer Persona games... Aside from the dungeon crawling aspect, you would go through each day in terms of day part and you would make one choice for each.  Like, after school, you could choose one person to hang out and spend time with.  The game was built around cultivating relationships with different people but you could only choose one person each day.  In the gameworld, that's just the way it works, there's never an explanation given as to why you can't spend time with groups of people at once, you just can't, and it works fine.

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Is there any reason such a problem must be presented to the player?

Well, naturally. Let's say that you have an option presented to the player before the "level", that will somewhat help to cope with the regular gameplay. And you have some other options present in a list as well. Well, why shouldnt the player just pick every one of them ? And if there is an option that the player will pick every single time - why is it in the list in the first place ? It makes sense to just automate it. But i dont want to. I have just such an option, that a player pretty much should always pick before playing a "level", except what i want, is to make it a conscious choice on their part. It is desirable, yet it must be considered if some other options are vying to be attended to, and it has to make sense as the game itself is relying rather heavily on common sense.

 

You could put them all at the same point in time, so choosing one is forced by only being in one place at one time.

Well, except, as in my example, all options are rather prolonged in time, and there is actually no apparent reason (if it were in fact happening in real world) why you cant do them simultaneously. Same with the other solutions you provided. Since all  the choices take place over several days, nothing really stops one from charging the phone/refueling the car.

 

Or, you could limit his money.

It would work, of course, but the problem is that one of the end-game goals is to amass as much money as possible. So if the player decides to go for that ending - the solution stops working entirely.

 

the choices all take place in Town X, but Town X is going to get attacked soon, only you don't know exactly when, so staying in Town X longer increases your perceived risk of being attacked.

This one would solve the limited time part rather nicely.

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Or, you could limit his money.

It would work, of course, but the problem is that one of the end-game goals is to amass as much money as possible. So if the player decides to go for that ending - the solution stops working entirely.

 

Could, then, this not be a valid point still? Such as, you are limited in what you can do at one time unless you decide to amass a fortune. In that case, like in real life you can go out more, buy stuff, etc.

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what sort of in-game reason would you give for forcing player to choose only one of those three.

 

none. this is usually indicative of an attempt to add dunsel features. 

 

more specifics about the game type etc are required for a more considered response as opposed to hit or miss suggestions fired blind (which sometimes work quite well).

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