Friday, April 18, 2008

Choices Again

So, Brenda Brathwaite posted on choice frequency.

I've posted on this subject before - although my essay is now lost to the winds of fickle hosting services, so I can only reference a tangential post.

Basically, I agree. I thought I would explain my theory on the matter, since the original essay is gone. GONE! Sob...

I don't think it's simple frequency. I think that the choices also have to (A) be actual choices, (B) change the game state in a significant way, and (C) be partially reversible or repeatable. "Meaningful", yes, but I define that a bit more complexly.

For example, if you're on a map, choosing whether to move left or right at any given moment is a meaningful, frequent choice. Moving one way brings you closer to some goals and further from others, moving another way does the opposite. Reversing your path is usually possible, but takes time.

Similarly, if you're playing poker, you're faced with numerous opportunities to make very meaningful choices. Bidding, just as a most obvious aspect. Bids can't be taken back, but every hand, you get to try again. There certainly are "make or break" hands of poker, but they're very unusual.

As a final example, you have games like Rock Band. It may feel a bit odd to say that a song beat is a "choice", and I think "choice" is probably a bad term. I... really hate the word "choppertunity"... but I think it's better than "choice". Maybe "option"?

Anyway, Rock Band sends these notes sliding down the neck towards you, and you hit them. You're not making "meaningful choices" between hitting the notes and letting them slide by. It's a skill test. But, fundamentally, I think that the basic play properties are the same as choosing which direction to go on a map. Frequent, repeatable opportunities that change the state of the world.

As an example of how not to do frequent choices, you can see modern dialog trees. You know, a kid says, "hey mithter, you got anything to eat?" and let you choose between "KILL HIM NOW!" and "Give him your life savings!" twenty times an hour.

Not only are these choices not frequent enough, they aren't even really choices. Nobody is constantly wavering between dark and light. These are paths that they choose at the beginning and stay with for the whole game. So the "choices" really aren't choices at all.

So, yes, I agree with Braithwaite, and I guess I don't have much to add.


Um. Have a nice day, I guess?

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