Sunday, August 09, 2009

Expectations of Control

I keep thinking about control in games. Because I'm a simulationist at heart. I want to know that if I push this to happen, then other things happen descending from it.

I remember reading Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, which fascinated me even if I never followed the combat rules or anything else that required stats or dice. It didn't bother me that I couldn't "choose the things I wanted", because it was presented in such a way that it was obvious there was no real simulation involved. I was just navigating something that was already written.

Similarly, I don't feel disappointed by adventure games or other very heavily-scripted games, because it's obvious there's not any kind of adaptive simulation. Funnily enough, as soon as these games include even a hint of adaptive simulation - such as giving you choices between two distinct plot branches - I start to get itchy.

"You gave me a choice, which means you CAN give me choices, which means you SHOULD give me choices, but you aren't, which means you suck!"

Obviously, I understand intellectually that most of these choices are of the choose-you-own-adventure variety and are not simulated. But I grew up with so many simulators that the itch is very strong.

This is the reason I dislike Knights of the Old Republic, and anything else that gives you "good or bad" choices. At first it seems like a simulation to my instincts, but even when I realize it's not, I still want more detailed and reactive control over my goodness and badness.

Do any of you have this problem?


Ellipsis said...

Definitely. I remember with Jade Empire, unlike Kotor, the game was short enough that playing through it twice (once as a good and once as an evil character) was very plausible. Once I'd done so, however, I was constantly frustrated by how similar the game was either way (it's not even possible to scare/annoy people out of your party by constantly insulting and threatening them!), and I remember thinking the exact same thing you mention here - it's only because the game hinted at giving me choice that I became frustrated by how little choice I had.

Craig Perko said...

Oh, good, it's not just me.

Ellipsis said...

Indeed...although I probably would have been largely appeased at the time if the two paths were more divergent, even if they were still just as clearly laid out. That is, I was bothered less by the fact that there were only two paths than I was by the fact that they were really the same path with different names and end-game sequences. In fact, you could still do your dramatic alignment-shifting event at the end of the game no matter what you'd done up to that point, so there was really only one important decision point, and all it determined was which ending you saw.

At this point, I'm also dissatisfied with games only having two paths, but even the "two-path" games often don't add enough to make the paths feel meaningfully distinct.

I'd be pretty happy just to play a game where making evil choices early on has this cascading effect where it becomes harder and harder over time for me to redeem myself and become good, and where the alignment significantly affects all aspects of the game.

Craig Perko said...

To be honest, I'd be happier with a game that didn't give me such choices. Giving me disappointing choices is much worse than not giving me any at all, in this case.

Isaac said...

The good/evil path has always seemed like a dodge to avoid writing a non-linear narrative; just write two linear ones instead.
I vastly prefer the few games that have a defined character, but let you traverse a narrative space, over supposedly open-ended games that really just have two equally linear paths.

Craig Perko said...

That's what I'm saying, yeah.

Luke said...

Not enough choices? They've found the cure: play Life!
Ok, maybe it was developed in only 6 days and shipped many *years* ago, but it's definitely a keeper. Then, the *graphic* has no rivals yet.


Craig Perko said...

Not sure what you mean. Life, as in real life? Life, as in the no-choices board game? Or Life, as in the grid simulation?

Also not sure what you mean by The Graphic.

Ellipsis said...

Sounds like he meant real life, and is working from a Judeo-Christian background.

I believe what he MEANT to say pen-and-paper RPGs. That's definitely one thing that helped set the standard we're trying to hold these video games to.

Craig Perko said...

Well, tabletops are where I have most of my experience, so that's naturally where I'm coming from.

As for his Christian background, I have no use for theological comments. They add nothing to the discussion.

So if Luke bothers coming back and reading this, next time post on-topic.

Luke said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Craig Perko said...

I have deleted Luke's proselytizing and half-coherent ramblings. You do not want to get me started on religion, because I get very, very brutal.

Luke said...

I know you'll delete even this one, for the same nonsensical reason.

PROSELYTIZING ?? really?? I doesn't make sense. Everyone could tell that you've misread, if you didn't delete the "incriminated" post.

half-coherent ramblings?? I would elaborate more on the topic, if I have not to reply to false accusations.

Please, read again my words, without the belief of me attacking you.

Craig Perko said...

I don't think you're attacking me. I think you're a delusional fucking nut. Now stop posting on my blog.

Luke said...

Then, I've definitely fallen off-topic, and it wasn't intended even from the first one.
I cannot stress enough how you misinterpreted me.

Craig Perko said...

I didn't misinterpret you: I just irrationally hate any references to religion. Don't take it personally. I'm an asshole who hates anything to do with religion.

At all.


Luke said...

Ok, I address it's a taboo here, but this doesn't allow you to make me appear as I try to convert anyone.

Now I would be happy to return on topic. Peace.