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Jinxstar

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Choice in gaming, Do we really have one?

Ok so it's about that time I went off on a rant again. I wanted to discuss "choices" in games. Do we really have any? How much freedom do we really have? How much do gamers really want?

I look at a lot of interviews and follow a lot of games and developers who are always pushing the bounds. I will only talk about games I have played and know something about.

I was recently watching a interview about Dragon Age: Origins. This game looks to have potential but the way the CEO worded many things made me skeptical. It made me think back on some games of Bioware's past like Mass Effect. He said things like "The people you choose to come with you and how you treat them will effect the story". How so? What if I choose to be a loner? Will the game let me or will it be written into the story of "Help person A kill person B or save person B from person A" and whichever you choose becomes your ally for the game... Because thinking back to Mass Effect I liked the idea of "Be who you want" and I myself like to go away from the path when they say that and see just how far outside of the box I can really go. I made my guy a renegade. I opposed everyone I talked to and treated them with total lack of respect. I defied everything I could but still I managed to hit every key point in the game the same way my roommate did... I even remember being in the comms room talking to the committee and cutting them off half way through the conversation and the story wouldn't let me progress until I reestablished comms and heard what they had to say... This disappointed me greatly and I fear that Dragon Age will follow many similar ideas.

Now when I say I don't like to follow the crowd and I try to break the mold... Let me give you an example. My girlfriend recently got Sims 3. She made her little Sims and they had good jobs and had babies and well... They were pretty boring all around. I started asking her if I could try it out. So after I created my sim who was a fat green skinned guy with purple clothes (to match) I decided I wanted to create and Evil Genius with the ultimate goal of becoming a botanist whose life goal was to create the worlds first 'Man eating" plant... It didn't really come to fruition and was actually a little dull but the idea of playing with the concept was fun. How about building 4 walls around your sim and watching them starve or do the same with their baby! There is some fun to be had if you don't follow the line painted for you.

Spore had very unique customization. However your goal was always the same. Evolve and conquer/befriend... No real going off the line painted. I mean you couldn't ever really just be different. You all learn to walk, create fire, etc... You could make a team of giant worms with lots and lots of tusks like I did but in the end... Your not gonna be a good dancer... I guess I just liked the idea of a Worm driving a tank.

Fable. While I have yet to play very much of Fable 2 Fable 1 was... in many ways similar to infamous to me(as I recall) you basically have choices that determine your overall Karma. Good or bad choice leads down a path that opens more choices. in the end you can be customized differently and be proficient at certain things but the end you all seem to pretty much get the same outcome...It has more of a middle ground then infamous but still not as open ended as promised.

Fallout 3. Now I will be honest I have the game but still haven't played it too much. Maybe 3 hours and my goal was to kill everyone in the world. I didn't get to far but from what I can tell it also has some pretty linear ideas. killing everyone doesn't get you very far. I mean I guess writing out a 14,000 page script just to suffice my whim of going rogue and becoming the apocalyptic batman loner of the wasteland would be a little much. I just don't see the point though. Go big or go home. You don't have to give players everything but if you talk big on variety then you should deliver.

Alpha protocol had a good Documentary on "If you help this chick she will help you but if not you fight her" And if she dies then what? I hope that's it. You made your bed now lie in it. I bet there will be a phone call though and on the other end someone will say "You killed her. Thanks for getting her off my back. You seem to have skills so how about I put you to work?" of course this part wont be a choice because your character will probably say without a button choice "What did you have in mind?" because that's how games work and I bet you 10/1 it's a carbon copy of the mission you were going to get anyway if you helped her.

My point I guess is If you are going to make a set story make it a great one that is linear. Zelda, God of War or Call of Duty 4 are examples of great linear stories that don't need all these "Choices" and every game I have ever played with "Oh we have a million choices but only 3 endings" really kind of fail in my eyes... It's like a "choose your own adventure book"  but where the last 3 pages are always the same... Why not just make one great story or give you absolute freedom? I think what I am getting at is that I just don't like all the hype around "OoOoO here you can do something good or bad. Kill or save" When maybe I just want to watch and point and laugh, or throw my beer at them or kill them both and do something else... The illusion of choice is really a very 2 sided coin instead of a 100 sided die.

Why not just say "We're making a cool game that looks good and has an interesting story that will vary the experience" instead of making promises of "ZOMG teh game is such different every time you play... Except the start... And end... and 5 or 6 things between there... And characters... And places you see... Other then that it's always changing!!!" because that's what I feel they are doing. Not just Bioware(Although I feel they are the biggest culprits lately). $0$0I mean how many people worked like crazy to build a huge thriving city in Sim city just to have Godzilla tear it down? I know I did. Why? because that's what makes it fun. Then drop a ton of tornadoes and earthquakes to see if you can kill Godzilla.... I never could... That's what makes it special. The ability to turn everything you worked for to crap at the press of a button. That is choice not what developers think is choice.

So what do you think? Is it just a pipe dream? Or do you think a game like Mass Effect 2 or Heavy Rain might break out and surprise us all? Am I just asking too much? Is there more a way to even do it right? Are MMO's the key? Second life with player created content that actually impact your character? I don't know the answer but I have ideas... I'd like to hear yours.

Thanks for reading.

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Cat4161d ago

"How about building 4 walls around your sim and watching them starve or do the same with their baby!"

Stop feeding Jack Thompson! ;)

Jinxstar4161d ago

hehe I will.

Thanks for reading. Sorry for the few grammatical errors. I tried going back and fixing them last night after I saved it but for some reason the site wouldn't let me =(.

DARK WITNESS4161d ago

i agree with most of what you said. i think in theory it sounds like a great idea and its all part of making games more interesting and the stories more involving... but ultimately most games that have tried to promise this stuff have failed.

I was very disappointed with ME1 in that regards. on the surface yea it felt like you were given this power of choice, but i could see through it.

i would say though not to give up hope.

it was kind of the same thing that was going on with destructible environments. up till now most dev's had promised " everything will be destructible, it will change the gameplay blah, blah, blah.. " again most of them failed. Even BF. Bad company failed in my book. I am sorry, but no, not everything was really destructible. then along came Redfaction and guess what everything was destructible ( well 99.9% ) of everything.

so maybe the same will happen with the whole choice and moral thing.

the worst part as you point out is the actual devs shouting it at the top of the mountain. the would be better off not saying anything about it and letting us descover it in the game as we play. instead of hyping it up beyond what they are really capable off. then we tend to remember the game for what it failed at rather then what it achieved.

Mwaan4160d ago

There was a lot going on in that game. You could turn good characters bad, bad characters good, or just leave them the way they were. It didn't really have much of an effect on the overall story but it did change all the dialog. When I got to the final boss she tried to explain the whole story to me, but I just picked her up and threw her off a cliff. I had to play through the game again to get the whole story. On my second play through I was able to assemble my lightsaber much earlier in the game and I found all the parts to HK-47. I even picked up a bounty hunter instead of a wookie. It was almost a completely different experience. I realized on my second run through the game that I couldn't really alter the overall story that much, but on my first play through the game had me believing that I was in complete control of the story.

DARK WITNESS4160d ago

actually your right, i forgot about Kotor 2. That really was a great game with great choice.

whats strange is this gen i don't think there as been an RPG that impressed me as much as KOTOR 2 did with its choice etc and story and weapons.

Mass Effect was ok, but again there was a lot more promised then what i felt was delivered. i know everyone else just loved the game, but ya thats what i thought anyway.

I really wanted another KOTOR on console this gen.. not some stupid MMO.

Tony P4160d ago

You can't blame the devs for those limits. It is what it is.

This kind of gameplay is always a work in progress. You are never quite free in games because the burden is on the developer to deliver a story that simply can't fit all play styles. The devs can't program for every instance of chaos. It's impossible.

What we're getting right now is probably some of the best we can get. Frankly, I don't have any better suggestions beyond 'forget huge textures and focus more on huge content' but no one would listen to that. If I could think up something better than that, I'd probably have a job in the industry. *sigh*

Jinxstar4160d ago

Dark Witness

I agree with you. I was kind of torn with the battlefield BC thing myself. In the end I chalked it up to "They could destroy everything but then it would be one flat place to fight with no reason to look up 5 minutes into the match" If you get what i mean. Everything would be leveled...

I do agree they need to stop talking about it like there is ultimate choice and changes... just say "hey there are a couple varied things but ultimately we had a general story we want you to accomplish" Kind of how infamous worked with their PR. They said there would be some varied missions and moves and such but overall it would be a similar experience. I liked that.

Mwaan.

That really sounds intriguing. I may have to look more into it honestly. Like I said I love the ideas and concepts even if there is little variety in moves or whatnot. The fact that you could just throw her off the cliff makes me happy =D

Tony P

I agree and I'm not really asking for limitless gameplay but... If they want to promote a game a certain way they should try and deliver.

Example: I remember recently an interview with some guy working on splinter cell and the interviewer was some Australian guy and he asked a super loaded question. it was something along the lines of. "During an interrogation can you choose where exactly o the mirror you smash the guys face?"... This kind of pissed me off and I'm sure it did the dev as well. Mainly because I can see absolutely no way that the inch or 2 difference in where his head hits will make the game any more or less fun or add anything of significance to the game. All it will do is assist in flaming for fanboys.

now the "Choice" to smash his face, Kick him in the crotch, Slit his throat or break his arm is what counts. Where exactly his arm breaks is irrelevant to "fun" but it seems most devs work on that as opposed to the options they seem to promote like crazy...

I agree though we are getting there but this "genre" really seems to be slow going... I mean in all honestly I prefer a narrow storyline because you know it's going to be one solid story but one day maybe that will become a thing of the past and options Truly impact how a game plays out. Like the example of KOTOR 2 above...

however I do agree. it is a work in progress and maybe one day. I don't really blame the dev's because in all honesty they do a pretty decent job. The PR guys make it seem more then it is and to me it's normally a huge let down...

Again guys thanks for reading and the input.

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