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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: For the Love of God, Choices!

  1. #21
    It's worth pointing out that the other way to aggregate choices is much like Mass Effect's endings do, by quantifying previous choices on an axis and creating demarcations to create "ranges" of cumulative choices that correspond to a lesser number of consequences/effects.

    So, if you make three choices that anger your warriors, you end up with an influential warrior leaving your tribe and striking out on his own. If you make eight choices that anger your warriors, half your warriors follow him. Etc. This is also aggregation, because, if that represented ten individual choices, we don't end up with 2^10th (1024) potential results.

    The *other* thing to note is that not all choices need to be directly dependent on all other choices. Whether you anger your warriors or not with your food rationing, you can still come upon the same marshy stretch of land.

    Finally, if you do aggregate, you can aggregate along multiple axes, too, and have results/consequences that can check more than one axis to create a more complex aggregate system.
    Exactly!

    And in terms of Mass Effect, they were literally sooooo close. I mean if they actually used those point buffers along the story and didn't force people to play online . . . and made the choices MATTER it would of been awesome, . Now I'm just left with this depressing void that overshadows what enjoyment I did accrue during my time playing the game.

  2. #22
    Showcasing my new-found obsession for King of Dragon Pass, let me explore another storytelling option:

    Have story choices influence a central pool of statistics which make your life harder or easier. In King of Dragon Pass, your goal was to form a tribe and eventually a kingdom. Various events surrounding upsetting your warriors could make some leave you (reducing that statistic), making good choices could result in receiving a gift (increasing the amount of goods you had), and so on. In fighting battles, if you did not have enough warriors, you might lose and get plundered. Then you would have smaller herds and less food, which could cause trouble later on.

    Basically, you have a lot of independent little storylines which all interact with each other and shape your playing experience, without necessarily requiring writing for a ton of possibilities. It allows for a lot of layers of plot and a lot of player decision without heavily complicating the story tree. This may be a somewhat outdated model, though, and from the previews we've seen the developers don't want to go for an approach that involves players maintaining a lot of statistics.

  3. #23
    I'm curious, if you ignore the last few minutes of ME3 (everything after going up the beam), are people still super-disappointed? There was definitely a little lack of connection between levels in terms of choices made, but it wasn't anything that bothered me. It was mostly just the ending sequence where my thoughts were 1) "Hey, none of my stuff mattered" and 2) "I do not care about these three choices. I can about something entirely different. Why is there not choice for that."

    I don't think that Mass Effect would have been able to do a true branching structure in a remotely cost-efficient way, but I think would have been well worth the time to have lots of alternate stuff in the last level or two. Different allies showing up, different dialog, and different end-clips compiled together to show how early choices collided with the big ending out.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by kale View Post
    I'm curious, if you ignore the last few minutes of ME3 (everything after going up the beam), are people still super-disappointed? There was definitely a little lack of connection between levels in terms of choices made, but it wasn't anything that bothered me. It was mostly just the ending sequence where my thoughts were 1) "Hey, none of my stuff mattered" and 2) "I do not care about these three choices. I can about something entirely different. Why is there not choice for that."

    I don't think that Mass Effect would have been able to do a true branching structure in a remotely cost-efficient way, but I think would have been well worth the time to have lots of alternate stuff in the last level or two. Different allies showing up, different dialog, and different end-clips compiled together to show how early choices collided with the big ending out.
    I was somewhat disappointed that choices from previous games made almost no difference. The developers explained this after the fact by saying that they didn't want to make content not everyone would see--which makes sense, but they had kind of committed themselves to doing just that and had said they would so for quite a while, so it was disappointing to see that. On the other hand, the content Mass Effect 3 was presented excellently; good music, good writing, good everything. The only big issue for me was that conversations were much less interactive, which was a step backward. If we ignore the ending, Mass Effect 3 was a game that ignored a lot of potential but which got an A for effort in my book; a good and memorable game but one which could have been better, and which won't stand the test of time.

  5. #25
    I like the idea of a semi-sheared tree structure where your choices only lead to branches at certain points in the game. You can track several different types of choices and then at a critical point check those aggregates to push the story along one of several branches. Some choices can certainly have immediate effects, but others can have delayed effects and effects that are not obvious to the player until much later.

    I think a lot of NIS titles do a good job of having incredibly varied story endings and plenty of them. Disgaea had a ton of different endings. Soul Nomad and the World Eaters also had a large variety of storylines and endings depending on what happened at different points in the story. Which battles you won and lost and which choices you made when interacting with the characters.

    One of the things that I think is interesting is that you may be in a conversation with two possible answers. In the short term both answers lead to the same result, but in the long run, when taken in combination with many other choices, the story diverged. This would even allow you to combine direct conversation choices to non-conversation choices. If you are gruff with the warriors and stingy with the food they leave. If you are gruff but free with the food, they grumble a bit but stay. Things like that.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Forgot69 View Post
    I, for one, have faith we're in very good hands on this topic. OP sounds like they might enjoy Chrono Trigger.
    My absolute favorite game.

  7. #27
    Chrono Trigger and King of Dragon Pass are great reference points for how to make decisions have some impact. Mass Effect one and two weren't too bad either (I can't convince myself to play three yet). I haven't played it yet, but Telltale's new Walking Dead game looks like another good example of decision making affecting gameplay, but not always adversely.

    I very much appreciate when a bit of roleplaying dialogue and decisions come back around to have some effect on gameplay later. I do think that it's important for most of the choices to be "valid" which makes it a little harder to design. It's a game, and players shouldn't necessarily have a much harder time because of casual decisions that they make. Most decisions should provide flavor and context rather than be doors that open or close (though open and closing doors sometimes is good too).

    First post, so I'd like to say congrats to Stoic on pulling together this wonderful project and coming up with a scheme that lets all of us be involved. I am really looking forward to seeing what you come up with and enjoying your game, art and music!

  8. #28
    I personally thought that Mass Effect 2 dropped the ball on choices having any impact. Does anyone remember how saving the council meant nothing for the game? Reenstating yourself as a council spectre didn't do anything in ME2 OR ME3. My Shepard shouldn't have been grounded on Earth when Mass Effect 3 started, not only because I didn't buy the DLC which explained the backstory, but because the whole point of spectres is that they only have to answer to the council.

    Mass Effect 2 was a complete reboot in so many ways:
    They removed the inventory system (rather than fixing it)
    They added ammo for weapons
    They removed planet exploration (in exchange for planet scanning)
    They added universal cooldown for abilities
    They blew up the normandy and gave you a new normandy
    They scattered your crew, and you got most of them back

    Also the whole theme of Mass Effect 2 was different from the first. Just listen to the title screen theme from Mass Effect 1, which is slow and contemplative, and compare it to the title screen from #2 which is more tense and suspenseful.

    The difference in direction which culminated in Mass Effect 3, began with Mass Effect 2 and I suspect we can attribute that change to the fact that EA purchased Bioware part way through the development of Mass Effect 2. The first game was published by Microsoft. I suspect heavy handed publisher intervention by EA is the reason Bioware's games started going down hill, see Dragon Age 2 in particular.

  9. #29
    Backer balnoisi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bevel View Post
    I suspect heavy handed publisher intervention by EA is the reason Bioware's games started going down hill, see Dragon Age 2 in particular.
    i would stop suspecting. and start blaming.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Bevel View Post
    I personally thought that Mass Effect 2 dropped the ball on choices having any impact. Does anyone remember how saving the council meant nothing for the game? Reenstating yourself as a council spectre didn't do anything in ME2 OR ME3. My Shepard shouldn't have been grounded on Earth when Mass Effect 3 started, not only because I didn't buy the DLC which explained the backstory, but because the whole point of spectres is that they only have to answer to the council.
    I think Mass Effect 2 was a great leap forward in terms of gameplay. Gameplay in the original Mass Effect was often awkward. However, I agree that it really dropped the ball in terms of decision impact. While it give plenty of references to the choices you made, few of them really made a big difference. On the other hand, it did set up Mass Effect 3, hinting towards the impacts that would be felt there. As we'd later find out, Mass Effect 3 didn't deliver on that. What was an improvement in Mass Effect 2 I think was the focus on the characters of the story; they were fleshed out more and developed along the way.

    The Mass Effect series' issue has never been setting the tone of a story, or providing the player with choices. What it's always struggled with is delivering on its own promises, because for all of the choices you get to make, their impact is rarely felt. The series ended up as the spawn of two seemingly opposite design ideas, having a lot of choices and having everyone experience the same content.

  11. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Kimberly View Post
    I think Mass Effect 2 was a great leap forward in terms of gameplay. Gameplay in the original Mass Effect was often awkward. However, I agree that it really dropped the ball in terms of decision impact. While it give plenty of references to the choices you made, few of them really made a big difference. On the other hand, it did set up Mass Effect 3, hinting towards the impacts that would be felt there. As we'd later find out, Mass Effect 3 didn't deliver on that. What was an improvement in Mass Effect 2 I think was the focus on the characters of the story; they were fleshed out more and developed along the way.

    The Mass Effect series' issue has never been setting the tone of a story, or providing the player with choices. What it's always struggled with is delivering on its own promises, because for all of the choices you get to make, their impact is rarely felt. The series ended up as the spawn of two seemingly opposite design ideas, having a lot of choices and having everyone experience the same content.
    I may be one of the few people who thought this, but I really enjoyed Mass Effect 1 the way it was. It felt like an RPG with shooter controls. Unfortunately lots of people thought it would be better as a shooter with skill progression, and I'm really not fond of that decision. Mass Effect 1 won an RPG of the year award or two, because it was an RPG.

  12. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Bevel View Post
    I may be one of the few people who thought this, but I really enjoyed Mass Effect 1 the way it was. It felt like an RPG with shooter controls. Unfortunately lots of people thought it would be better as a shooter with skill progression, and I'm really not fond of that decision. Mass Effect 1 won an RPG of the year award or two, because it was an RPG.
    I thought the original Mass Effect did have some interesting gameplay, but it often wasn't very tense. Moreover, the bonuses were handed out like candy, so eventually you didn't take much in the way of damage at all, and combat ended up consisting of taking out your assault rifle and holding down the mouse button. It was a good concept, but the execution didn't go well, in my opinion---perhaps they could've improved on that, but Mass Effect 2 changed the concept and did that new one well, and I was happy with that.

  13. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Kimberly View Post
    I thought the original Mass Effect did have some interesting gameplay, but it often wasn't very tense. Moreover, the bonuses were handed out like candy, so eventually you didn't take much in the way of damage at all, and combat ended up consisting of taking out your assault rifle and holding down the mouse button. It was a good concept, but the execution didn't go well, in my opinion---perhaps they could've improved on that, but Mass Effect 2 changed the concept and did that new one well, and I was happy with that.
    There is usually one class in old CRPGs that is more powerful than the others, (like in the mage in Planescape Torment) and I don't understand why people feel like it needs to be balanced as if fairness to the enemies were an important factor. :P

    I enjoyed the progression of the soldier and being able to remove cooldown on your weapon. I also added explosive rounds and two rail attachments to the sniper rifle and made it into a rocket launcher that would send enemies flying. That sort of customization which could completely change the nature of a weapon was what I loved about the first game. The first one was so ambitious in so many ways, and in response to the criticism they removed almost all of the unique aspects. Yes it was easy in the end, but the simplicity of the combat was entirely up to you based on the class you picked. I played with the sniper rifle mostly, and I took great relish in picking enemies off from kilometres off whenever possible.

  14. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Bevel View Post
    There is usually one class in old CRPGs that is more powerful than the others, (like in the mage in Planescape Torment) and I don't understand why people feel like it needs to be balanced as if fairness to the enemies were an important factor. :P

    I enjoyed the progression of the soldier and being able to remove cooldown on your weapon. I also added explosive rounds and two rail attachments to the sniper rifle and made it into a rocket launcher that would send enemies flying. That sort of customization which could completely change the nature of a weapon was what I loved about the first game. The first one was so ambitious in so many ways, and in response to the criticism they removed almost all of the unique aspects. Yes it was easy in the end, but the simplicity of the combat was entirely up to you based on the class you picked. I played with the sniper rifle mostly, and I took great relish in picking enemies off from kilometres off whenever possible.
    I agree that it was quite ambitious, and they went with a far more standard model for the sequel. But I've played the game with sniper rifles and pistols, as well---modifying them was nice and all, but ultimately I felt it didn't change the dynamic of the combat much. Combat was still mostly just "throw some biotics at it, then shoot at every opportunity". I think Mass Effect 2 could have been (more) amazing if they'd stuck with the earlier combat model and improved on that, but personally I can't give Mass Effect's combat much praise, besides it being ambitious.

  15. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Kimberly View Post
    I agree that it was quite ambitious, and they went with a far more standard model for the sequel. But I've played the game with sniper rifles and pistols, as well---modifying them was nice and all, but ultimately I felt it didn't change the dynamic of the combat much. Combat was still mostly just "throw some biotics at it, then shoot at every opportunity". I think Mass Effect 2 could have been (more) amazing if they'd stuck with the earlier combat model and improved on that, but personally I can't give Mass Effect's combat much praise, besides it being ambitious.
    I agree that the combat didn't feel as good as it could have. My issue is the response of simply removing aspects that hadn't already been perfected elsewhere. By making Mass Effect 2's combat more like a typical cover shooter I can say that it was nothing special compared to Gears of War. The original combat wasn't like Gears of War in actuality, even though it had a cover mechanic. When you do something that another game already does better, it's fair to compare the two, and that's why I think ME2 was just mediocre. Yes I enjoyed the character development, but the epic plot wasn't there and I felt like a comic book hero rather than some random guy who was thrust in to a conflict bigger than himself. There are enough games about being "the savior" already.

  16. #36
    Backer Aaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bevel View Post
    I don't understand why people feel like it needs to be balanced as if fairness to the enemies were an important factor.
    It has to do with removing dominant strategies from the game so that people don't just use the same strategy over and over again. Why have warriors in a game at all when mages are superior in every respect?

  17. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron View Post
    It has to do with removing dominant strategies from the game so that people don't just use the same strategy over and over again. Why have warriors in a game at all when mages are superior in every respect?
    This.

    People like paths of least resistance, even when they don't. It's why I like Thief better than Assassin's creed. Assassin's Creed has stealth and I love stealth, but I never use it because I can just take out a scimitar and murder everyone who looks at me funny. In Thief, stealth feels awesome because I feel the challenge and eventual reward. In AC stealth makes me jittery because I know I'm forcing myself to do it when I could just be carving my way to the next cutscene. Balance definitely has a purpose outside of multiplayer.

  18. #38
    Considering Mass Effect, I think we all have a general understanding of what they did right/ wrong in the game. However, what's more important, I think, is to not talk about what we don't want but use our opinions to form a worthy constructive discussion about what we do want.

    So moving on, I recently came across this post by Stoic in regards to The Banner Saga,

    Something we haven't talked about much is the character that you play. You can't create your own main character but we're doing something uncommon in that you hop around between a few major characters throughout the course of the game when coming across key points in the story, like a miniseries such as Game of Thrones, or in games like Final Fantasy 3 (The US #3 - with Locke and Terra). You'll experience the major events going on from different perspectives, and you'll play both male and female leads, which may inspire you to deal with situations differently depending on who you're playing.
    and I just want to repeat my argument made earlier . . . PLEASE MAKE CHOICES MATTER. As I have already discussed this can be done through an aggregated tree story structure. HOWEVER, if it is not done properly I fear that The Banner Saga could fall prey to many uninteresting characters that nobody want's to play. This problem can be avoided by, as stated before, allowing the player to make significant choices as the story goes on. This is important because, as far as multiple characters are concerned, if that's not the case then the end result will be a whole bunch of characters that nobody cares about rather than a few characters nobody cares about (assuming the worst case scenario that every character sucks). Therefore, in the worst case scenario, the game can still be make awesome by simply promoting a strong choices system that allows the player to shift the character (even a character that they start out not liking) into one they do like based upon their choices.

    Let's concretize (yes that's a word that Stoic's spell check is reporting a false positive on) this thought process by going back to games made by Telltale Games. Looking at the Walking Dead game series I think it's clear (as I have said before) what a choice structure can do, but specifically for this post, it can make characters interesting to the player by allowing the player to tailor the character to themselves. Of course no matter how many characters are involved, as long as CHOICES MATTER, the result is an interesting story line that can absorb the player into the story because they are literally one with it.

    BUT, a perfect example of WHAT NOT TO DO is Telltale Game's Jurassic Park. In the game it's basically a movie with a bunch of forgettable characters that is still a horrible game EVEN WITH DINOSAURS! Based on the quote by Stoic, I just want to warn you NOT to make a game that has multiple characters and doesn't have choices because, let's be honest, there's no way you can make a story that's interesting to everyone in every way. This problem can only be remedied by CHOICES. If choices don't exist or don't matter then the only thing that will happen is a game with such a wide appeal base that it appeals to no one.

    ***STOIC IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THIS BORING GAME PLAY IT AND UNDERSTAND THE FALLACIES ALREADY MADE/ LESSONS ALREADY LEARNED BY TELLTALE GAMES AND WHY THE WALKING DEAD IS SUCH A GOOD GAME BY CONTRAST.***
    Last edited by knivesalot; 05-10-2012 at 07:54 AM.

  19.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #39
    Creative Director Alex's Avatar
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    Hey everybody! I've been meaning to comment on this but it's a complicated topic and I wanted to make sure I represented the game correctly. As you can probably guess, we're quite familiar with the exponentially-growing cost of creating choice in games. We're also very familiar with the tree and braid approach to story design. Ultimately we think what we're doing in The Banner Saga is slightly different than these models.

    Here's a very simple version I've illustrated in a way that I think makes sense.



    The first thing we realized is that we weren't making a game where you can do anything. Time is an important factor in the game, and you won't be off looking for treasure or grinding mobs when the end of the world is looming on the horizon. Unlike in many games were you, yourself, are the trigger and everything in the world revolves around you, instead we're focusing the story on how you deal with events that are going to happen, whether you're involved or not. This is mitigated by the fact that you have to travel as a caravan, and as you travel time passes in the world. In case you didn't realize it, the travel scenes in our video are actual gameplay, not just cutscenes - decisions you make in the story will affect how many people are following you, how quickly you travel and the health and morale of the caravan, as well as lots of unique scenarios you'll have to deal with.

    In the above image the conflict begins at "start", and this has set an inevitable series of events in motion. The three dots below "event" denote that you may influence it in three different ways. Maybe you get there early and address the problem before it gets out of control. Maybe you arrive with not enough civilians to influence the event, and you miss a chance to get the best outcome. Maybe you show up so late that it's already happened and left things in the worst possible state. These three options are just examples, each key event can have any number of different states.

    The goal is that each event can affect the next and the overall outcome of the story. Subsequent events may have certain variables locked due to your actions, or have new variables opened. The colored lines just represent the way the story could go in different play-throughs. The important thing to mention is that your influence on event 2 can change the options available to you for event 3.

    This system seems unique to me not just because time is a factor, but because an entire civilization is at stake and influences the story, not just one character. A choice you make may determine how many people survive an event, which in turn influences the next event that is contingent on how many people are traveling with you. As the player, you'll have to decide whether it's acceptable to let people starve, or be left behind, or to sacrifice a few for the many. We don't tell you what the good or bad choice is, it's just a matter of what you feel is right.

    The last thing to mention is that this does mean the finale is largely in your hands. I can't get into too much detail now but as you can extrapolate from what we've talked about here, your options during the finale will be a result of your combined decisions, not one of three inevitable choices.

    Our focus on having the same events in different states, the importance of time and travel, and the needs of a whole population over an individual character have required us to think about choice in games a little different than most games we've worked on. It also lets us keep branching variables manageable while giving players a sense of real influence over the story. We're crazy excited about the freedom this gives us to make a game that feels like something we've rarely played before. Hope you enjoy it just as much!

  20. #40
    Certainly sounds good- and addresses my main complaint with branching sidequests in general: if the end of the world is upon us should I have time to branch out on subplots without main story consequences? With luck this will give the Banner Saga's side stories real weight and interest- and encourage me to replay with a different playstyle in the future- as opposed to my standard rpg replay where at branching points X, Y and Z I make the bad choice rather than the good.

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