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View Full Version : For the Love of God, Choices!



knivesalot
05-01-2012, 09:05 PM
Honestly, all I want in this game is for choices that MATTER, for them to be dependent upon previous choices.

Now while this has already been addressed by Stoic . . . "Your choices in dialogue and throughout the game truly affect the story and the people around you" . . . I believe that's easy to say but hard to achieve.

For my 2 cents, what I would like to see is a story where choices literally matter. As in choices must depend upon previous choices to make the game more realistic and replayable. Now while of course that's certainly a lot to ask, allow me to clarify.

Most games today have, what I perceive is, a braid like story line where the player-character is led to a choice, given the effects of the choice, and then brought back to the main story line with a new choice that is independent of the previous choice, hence the "braid story form". I believe this is a inferior / dull way to tell a story because it confines and alienates the player, forcing them to mainly be recipients of the story with novelty roles rather than an active force that defines the story.

It looks like this . . .
http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/ropestory.png

However, In my opinion, the greatest games have a story line that draws the player in through simply having dependent choices that rely on the previous actions made by the player. This is what I call the "Tree story form" and what makes it so great is that it forces the player-character to be sucked into the game as an actor that drives the story along its predetermined tracks, allowing enough freedom to grip the player, but enough structure to allow the game to flow and function well.

It looks like this . . .
http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Treestory.png

So going back to why I am creating this thread. I would like to see many choices that are dependent upon previous choices, I want a story that's going to grip me, a story that I'll remember because I was apart of it.

Now, you might be thinking, "but knivesalot this sounds crazy and complex, how could it exist as practicality?" Well, let me draw from a few examples off the top of my head.

First and most recently, is the game "The Walking Dead" based on the comics by Tell Tale Games. They have incorporated this "tree" structure by promoting every choice as a choice that has these dependent ties. For example, there's one point where the player-character is given the choice between saving one of two members of the survival group that you are apart of. When the player-character makes the choice, the character not chosen dies and from then on the player that lives is apart of the story from then on.

Second, let's consider the age old classic Deus Ex. Now this game definitely had a tree story line and the replay value was phenomenal. Specifically, I remember the first time I played it I was faced with a choice of killing this rebel guy or not. Instead of doing what I was supposed to do I decided to turn around and shoot the robot lady who was making me choose in the face. This resulted in a completely unique story line where I was constantly on the run being pursued by the lady robots friend who was seeking vengeance. Amazing! Now that was a game.

Therefore, what I'm trying to get at is, the more dependent the choices are in an rpg the better the game (assuming everything else is reasonable). Said differently, let in-game choices be a marker for, and definition of, a new path for the story; rather than just having the choice loop around to the next inevitable event DX. So please, please, please, put in dependent choices! :D

Kaffis
05-01-2012, 09:27 PM
I completely agree. Now, I understand why the "braid" method (as you call it) has become popular -- it's exponentially more work per hour of gameplay/unit of story in one playthrough to do branching trees.

However, what I wish game developers would understand is that I place a premium on the tree type of story because one of the *big* draws about playing stories with choices is talking with friends and fellow gamers about our different experiences! And the experiences are never very different if the choices always lead back to the same dialogue and plot points for everybody.

Similarly, I fear that developers tend to approach trees as a bunch of "wasted" writing and development, because one playthrough only experiences a fraction of it based on one path through the works. This is anything but the case! Instead, what that "wasted" work amounts to is an interest on my part to play the game multiple times!

I will say this, though: the most compelling merging of mutable story and gameplay was in the Wing Commander series. I loved that that game took the tree(-ish -- the possible routes the game would take branched out while providing points at which your actions could jump from one branch to another down the line, before the whole thing narrowed down to 2 possible endings again) approach, and I love that doing so promoted a mindset while playing of accepting that sometimes you fail, and the moment things start looking bad, the thing to do is NOT to hit your "restart mission" or "load game" menu options, but to try to mitigate the damage and shoot for an acceptable *degree* of failure, that could be salvaged with diligent work and success in later missions.

Forgot69
05-01-2012, 09:27 PM
I, for one, have faith we're in very good hands on this topic. OP sounds like they might enjoy Chrono Trigger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrono_Trigger). ;)

cichy69
05-01-2012, 09:45 PM
@knivesalot ...I approve this message ;]

knivesalot
05-01-2012, 09:52 PM
@Kaffis - Couldn't of said it better myself.

@Forgot69 - I sure Hope so :D

@cichy69 - I am humbled :)

Ratatoskr
05-01-2012, 10:45 PM
I agree completely. I think in one interview Stoic was actually talking about this, saying that they wanted to make a game where if your village burns down in the beginning it's not the end, you simply have to try to go from there. So I think they definitely have the idea of it's not exactly whether you win or lose but how you get there that matters. And it'll be interesting to play a game where you're not reloading all the time because you screwed up unless like everyone dies or something.
I'm also pro tree-style because I feel like that really ups the replay value of a game if every time you play you can take an entirely different path so the experience is always different. And since I'm going to have to play a few times at least to try a few of the awesome crests other than mine I am all for that.

kale
05-01-2012, 10:50 PM
I definitely get the impression that this is one of the big things that Stoic is shooting for and I'm excited to see what they come up with.

To be clear though, more mainstream developers understand that story is a premium draw and they don't consider branches wasted writing. It's just that branching that way is really an incredible amount of work. Not like twice the work, but seriously much much more than that. Consider the time, effort, and money that went into the three Mass Effect games. Consider just how many times more writing, voice-acting, animation, and levels would have had to have been made if every scene was a culmination of all the choices that came before it. Towards the end of even the first game you're talking about thirty or forty different scenes instead of the one with a few variations that you're given.

I suspect that Stoic is going to figure out a lot of awesome ways to go about approaching this. But I don't hold it against BioWare for only delivering the massive amount of content that they did :-P

Jenn
05-02-2012, 12:46 AM
I agree knivesalot, absolutely. I'm sure you've seen this, but in case you haven't: http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/choice-and-conflict It's not so much about the braid vs tree idea (which is fantastic by the way), but about the choices themselves being interesting

In a similar vein, this article sums up what has been disappointing me in recent games: http://boingboing.net/features/morerock.html

Skitnik
05-02-2012, 04:06 AM
Games featuring choices and consequences are more than rare. Not only are they more expensive, but they are contrary to the trend of handholding present in mainstream games. A game, that I cannot recommend enough, that really recognizes choices both in character devloppment and in story progression, is Arcanum : Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Available for peanuts at gog.com.

About The Banner Saga, one of Stoic's inspirations is King of Dragon Pass, another awesome and unique game, so, I think that it's a safe bet that choices will be here, and that they will matter.

Kimberly
05-02-2012, 06:51 AM
I suspect that Stoic is going to figure out a lot of awesome ways to go about approaching this. But I don't hold it against BioWare for only delivering the massive amount of content that they did :-P

What I hold against Bioware is not so much the choice to not go with a tree storyline, but rather them lying about it. Right up until Mass Effect 3's release, the developers insisted that was exactly what they would never do, that the ending had many different variations based on your choices, and that several choices from previous games would have a huge impact. That did not end up being the case, of course. It wouldn't have been as much of an issue had they been straight-forward about cutting off the branches and explaining their reasoning for doing so.

Back on topic, I agree that a tree storyline is a must in The Banner Saga. Your choices must not just inspire some future event, but also open up new choices. In this way, you can really affect what's going on by going the same direction with every choice, or you can mitigate the damage of previous poor choices. This need not conflict with the overall storyline; a tree of choices about the workings of the clan and relationships between people is fulfilling, but does not require the game to go an entirely new direction. To go back to Mass Effect 3, it would have been possible to have many branching sidestories (such as a group of missions about the Rachni) based on your previous choices, without changing anything about Shepard's goal of stopping the Reapers---affecting the final battle, yes, and possibly its outcome, but not making it an entirely different game.

kale
05-02-2012, 09:11 AM
What I hold against Bioware is not so much the choice to not go with a tree storyline, but rather them lying about it. Right up until Mass Effect 3's release, the developers insisted that was exactly what they would never do, that the ending had many different variations based on your choices, and that several choices from previous games would have a huge impact. That did not end up being the case, of course. It wouldn't have been as much of an issue had they been straight-forward about cutting off the branches and explaining their reasoning for doing so.

Back on topic, I agree that a tree storyline is a must in The Banner Saga. Your choices must not just inspire some future event, but also open up new choices. In this way, you can really affect what's going on by going the same direction with every choice, or you can mitigate the damage of previous poor choices. This need not conflict with the overall storyline; a tree of choices about the workings of the clan and relationships between people is fulfilling, but does not require the game to go an entirely new direction. To go back to Mass Effect 3, it would have been possible to have many branching sidestories (such as a group of missions about the Rachni) based on your previous choices, without changing anything about Shepard's goal of stopping the Reapers---affecting the final battle, yes, and possibly its outcome, but not making it an entirely different game.

Yea, I definitely agree with all of that. I love pretty much all of the ME series until about the last 10 minutes and then everything goes horribly awry. I'm just a little sad because there hasn't been a ton posted on the forums yet and much of it already seems to revolve around, "I love this project because it will do things differently than BioWare and BioWare does everything badly." I'm pretty sure BioWare doesn't do everything badly. But more to the point, I think the Banner Saga is an awesome enough endeavor that we should be able to discuss it and be excited about it on its own merits rather than always in to comparison to other things we might have liked less.

hannibal
05-02-2012, 10:27 AM
Tree-branched choices are great, but expensive to produce.

If you take the example of knivesalot, there you have as a player two choices, but the designer has to develop already eight different stories. With every further choice that number doubles, 10 choices would result in 2048 story branches, an insane number in connection with game design.

In reality one could reduce design time by eliminating redundancies etc., but still, I understand why even big studios only do the 'braid' method.
Personally, I'd love to have some real choices, too, of course ^^.

Troll
05-02-2012, 10:42 AM
Not only does a tree branching style needs work, it also needs the mind(s) to work out coherent and interesting branchings. On a small / medium lenght game it can be done with correct ressources, but on larger games with a big universe I'm pretty sure it becomes way harder to weave all those branchings in an interesting and coherent way while keeping each branch different from the others.

I do want a tree style branching in The banner Saga though, it would fit quite well with the setting of the clan always on the move in a caravan.

balnoisi
05-02-2012, 12:24 PM
i do have a solution for producing multiple story branches : let's make the same scene, viewed through different color filters one for each branch. colourful tree, no ?

now seriously. in my opinion no game will be developed with a 100% tree story line like the one in the firmly drawn sketch by knivesalot. one or two main lines could be, but 20 ? 100 ? 1000 ? .. there's no way to make this possible, maybe making a whole new game for every main line, or you would need to be able to create a complete real universe.

the way i picture it would be more like a journey in a metaphorical tube (metro), you will always be travelling the same line, choices you make are represented by a change of clothes, companions, if it's a wagon or a truck or a bike; but none of this allows you to exit the line.
because after all you may change order of events, present a number of possible solutions for every situation, do as in a sandbox kind of game. but the main Story has to be written down.

wow, i went all philosophical there. i guess only i understand what i meant. :p

Kimberly
05-02-2012, 12:45 PM
i do have a solution for producing multiple story branches : let's make the same scene, viewed through different color filters one for each branch. colourful tree, no ?

now seriously. in my opinion no game will be developed with a 100% tree story line like the one in the firmly drawn sketch by knivesalot. one or two main lines could be, but 20 ? 100 ? 1000 ? .. there's no way to make this possible, maybe making a whole new game for every main line, or you would need to be able to create a complete real universe.

the way i picture it would be more like a journey in a metaphorical tube (metro), you will always be travelling the same line, choices you make are represented by a change of clothes, companions, if it's a wagon or a truck or a bike; but none of this allows you to exit the line.
because after all you may change order of events, present a number of possible solutions for every situation, do as in a sandbox kind of game. but the main Story has to be written down.

wow, i went all philosophical there. i guess only i understand what i meant. :p

I think the mistake a lot of you are making in imagining this is figuring that all choices are related. It's entirely possible to condense a lot of choices into just a few versions, and some choices are not related. Let's say you have four choices in situation X and three in situation Y. Each choice has a result, so you have seven results. Now, there's 4 * 3 = 12 possible combinations, but the developers still only need to have seven events.

If multiple choices led to the same event, that reduces the amount of events needed, as well: let's say one of your choices upsets the warriors. Instead of having a special event for that choice, have it add to the behind-the-scenes "warrior_upset" counter. If the counter reaches four, you get a "the warriors are rebelling!" event. That way you made just one event that showcases the effect of a bunch of different choices, taken together.

So a branching storyline is really not as impractical as it would seem at first. The main story can keep going in the same direction, a number of choices will eventually lead to the same event, and not every combination of choices requires its own programming.

Mudfly
05-02-2012, 01:09 PM
I like the idea of a branching storyline as well. But I don’t think every choice have to lead to a dramatic change in the story. I think well balanced mix of both braid and tree style storytelling would be preferable.

Look at dragon age: origins. That game forced you to make both big choices, like character origin, which fractions you helped and so on, but also smaller ones as well. One of my favorite parts of the whole game was when you tried to save Anora from Arl Howe and whether or not you were able to do so changed the story quite a bit during the next 15 minutes or so, but only very slightly after that. This did not require hundreds of hours of writing to accomplish (probably). They only had to change a few lines of dialog here and there.

I’m not really sure what I’m rambling about anymore so I’ll try to stop now.

Kaffo
05-02-2012, 01:53 PM
I remember me and my friend comparing our Witcher 2 endings. So much variation between us!

Bevel
05-02-2012, 02:02 PM
I don't have a problem with a story which is linear as long as it's used to tell a more cohesive narrative. Books are great at pulling me in without giving me the ability to change the course of the story. Let player choice dictate the path which leads you to the end of the game but if this is a game about dealing with what's thrown at you, it shouldn't be too hard to make the malleable aspects of the story relate primarily to your small group and have the rest remain the same regardless of what you do.

knivesalot
05-02-2012, 04:31 PM
Ooookkkk, First of all let me say thanks for the replies everyone!

Now, what I just realized after all your comments is that I never really flushed out the practical nature of the tree story line. The truth is that the unhindered Tree model is a model that's impossible because it's reality. A game is really just a model of reality that we can have fun with without having to worry about real life repercussions because there are so many possible outcomes (practically infinite).

Therefore, the tree model "untrimmed" (as I call it) actually looks like this . . .
http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Treestoryuntrimmed.png

. . . which quickly becomes unmanageable due to the exponentially increasing amount of choices.

So the question is then, "but knivesalot how is the tree story practical in any form and what's the point in talking about it if it's so impossible?"

Well, I realize what I didn't elaborate on in my first post was the necessity of not only dependent chocies but also choice "aggregation".

Certainly the tree model (while it's what we all want) is impossible. So my answer is to approach these effects as close as possible until it doesn't matter that the story line isn't a true tree model (kind of like calculus).

This can be achieved by "trimming" the tree model down to a manageable size or combining it with braid model manageability.

Visually this becomes . . .
http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Trimmedtree.png

What's significant about this form is that the story line is built in such a way to allow as many choices as possible until they become unmanageable. At this point a significant event happens where the player-character is faced with a choice. However, what's different about this choices is that it is an "aggregated" choice that the player doesn't make directly, but rather, makes it indirectly through all the subsequent choices. The effect is a result at the event, based upon all previous choices, which sets up the next cycle of choices. These cycles repeat until the story is concluded. Therefore, the final choice before the next tree cycle is no a single choice at all, but an aggregate of previous choices that yields the results which begin the next cycle.

Now, the theory is all well and good, but how could this be practically applied? Well lets assume that the banner saga begins in a village and the player-character is given choices on managing that village. Time goes on and the village changes in a unique way until the end of the first "tree" cycle. At this point, based on the previous choices, the village either burns down or is saved. However, because the world is ending the tribe has to leave the village either way (even if it never got burned down). But for the player-character that saved their village they get to salvage supplies, etc. from the village and move on well stocked. For the other player-character who's village did get burned down they don't get to start with supplies and are forced to raid other villages or make risks to gain them. But because they are unencumbered they move faster and don't have to deal with the catastrophe that forced the other player to leave their village. Thus the result is a new tree cycle with choice 1 being already made because it was an aggregated choice.

Now what's important to point out is what I don't want and I think a good example is Mass Effect 3.

Just as Kimberly says,

What I hold against Bioware is not so much the choice to not go with a tree storyline, but rather them lying about it. Right up until Mass Effect 3's release, the developers insisted that was exactly what they would never do, that the ending had many different variations based on your choices, and that several choices from previous games would have a huge impact. That did not end up being the case, of course. It wouldn't have been as much of an issue had they been straight-forward about cutting off the branches and explaining their reasoning for doing so.

Mass Effect 3 is a perfect example of what NOT to do. Drawing from the final choice in the game, the player character got to directly choose what happened at the end. This is not the tree model, it is the braid model. I say this because the choice the player makes is (basically) independent of all previous choices. I mean sure, they came close with the point system etc. but the final choices of the game should of been an aggregate of all previous choices. Now I'm not saying that didn't happen (certain characters died, etc.) but it was trivial and the player could just simply choose to control the reapers or kill everything (or make it all robots?) whatever. The point is that Bioware should of, in my opinion, set up the results of the game to be dependent upon previous choices made during the game aggregated together (and of course made the results better but that's a different topic).

Thus Addressing the concerns of Kale, Skitnik, and Hannibal, etc., I agree that a tree story model is certainly more difficult, more expensive, etc. but it is absolutely necessary for a GOOD game that is designed to revolve around rpg elements. Without the tree form then the game will ultimately become a shadow to other rpgs that do incorporate the quality of the tree method.

Furthermore, these problems can be mitigated by using the "trimmed" tree method to make a tree structure manageable. While certainly, unrestrained, the exponential nature of the tree method is not possible and you could end up with some odd 2048 branches. but by aggregating these choices the exponential nature can be controlled.

For example, lets assume a story starting with 2 choices and gaining 2 choices for every choice . . . so that's 2 choices the first round, 4 choices the second round, and 8 choices the third round, 16 choices the fourth round, which comes to a total of 30 branches. Then these choices are aggregated into a result with 2 outcomes and the process starts again at round 1. Now assuming 4 cycles of this and we come up with 120 branches across the entire story. Compare this with a story that has no aggregating qualities (you get thousands of branches) and we can see that the tree model (when trimmed) is not only possible but also practical.

So to edit my last post's conclusion, add dependent and aggregated choices!

Oh and Jenn, awesome vid/ article! lol

Kaffis
05-02-2012, 05:09 PM
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.

knivesalot
05-02-2012, 05:24 PM
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.

Kimberly
05-02-2012, 05:48 PM
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.

kale
05-02-2012, 10:13 PM
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.

Kimberly
05-03-2012, 07:03 AM
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.

kmean
05-03-2012, 04:14 PM
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.

lionheart5656
05-04-2012, 12:26 AM
I, for one, have faith we're in very good hands on this topic. OP sounds like they might enjoy Chrono Trigger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrono_Trigger). ;)

My absolute favorite game.

Teq
05-04-2012, 07:51 AM
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!

Bevel
05-04-2012, 01:16 PM
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.

balnoisi
05-04-2012, 01:27 PM
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. :p

Kimberly
05-04-2012, 01:48 PM
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.

Bevel
05-04-2012, 11:02 PM
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.

Kimberly
05-05-2012, 09:18 AM
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.

Bevel
05-05-2012, 09:39 PM
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.

Kimberly
05-06-2012, 07:42 AM
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.

Bevel
05-06-2012, 10:28 AM
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.

Aaron
05-06-2012, 12:53 PM
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?

kale
05-07-2012, 10:12 PM
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.

knivesalot
05-10-2012, 07:51 AM
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.***

Alex
05-11-2012, 12:09 PM
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.

http://stoicstudio.com/uploaded/Choice.jpg

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!

JokerAR
05-11-2012, 12:36 PM
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.

Aaron
05-11-2012, 12:41 PM
One thing I'd like to address is how "optimal" a choice or set of choices are.


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 talk of best and worst outcomes suggests that there are right/optimal and wrong/suboptimal actions and choices. I tend to be suspicious of such weighted choices and branching because it suggests there's a "correct" set of choices. These correct choices and the best overall outcome may involve actions that are more difficult, but then the choices are less about role playing and more about getting the equivalent of 100% completion.

Ratatoskr
05-11-2012, 12:52 PM
My hope for the optimal choices comment is simply that he meant it the way I tend to think of it, which is how can you keep the most of your people alive, which is always going to be a trade off. Since this is a post-apocalyptic scenario I figure that's going to be the main goal, and so every choice is going to be a balance of who dies and who lives.

But I do agree that it would be nice if there were a few different ways to get to a "most of your people survive" scenario, rather than having one perfect path and a whole bunch of less than perfect ones. I actually think having a way to save everyone would be rather unrealistic.

Torgamous
05-11-2012, 01:51 PM
The talk of best and worst outcomes suggests that there are right/optimal and wrong/suboptimal actions and choices. I tend to be suspicious of such weighted choices and branching because it suggests there's a "correct" set of choices. These correct choices and the best overall outcome may involve actions that are more difficult, but then the choices are less about role playing and more about getting the equivalent of 100% completion.

And then you get to the end and discover that keeping lots of people alive made your caravan big and noticeable, making it easier for Black Armor Dudes to find and slaughter everyone.

While that, specifically, would be a really dickish move on the part of Stoic, I'm pretty sure they've said somewhere that they don't want to make it immediately apparent what the best choices are. I doubt it'll be as simple as the "OOH OOH DO THIS, or you technically could do these things too, but they suck" that pops up from time to time.

Alex
05-11-2012, 02:45 PM
To mention it, we are intentionally trying to make it so that there is no "best" path where you save everyone. But more importantly, like real life you don't necessarily know what the best path would be anyway. You may save half a town and wonder if you could have done better. If a town drags their heels and takes days to pack up and leave you may not know how that is going to affect the next event. It definitely goes beyond "saving people", however, into the realm of ethical dilemmas, revenge, no-win scenarios and everything else that comes with the end of the world. We're in love with the idea that you accept the result of your actions and keep going.

knivesalot
05-11-2012, 04:40 PM
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.

...

To mention it, we are intentionally trying to make it so that there is no "best" path where you save everyone. But more importantly, like real life you don't necessarily know what the best path would be anyway. You may save half a town and wonder if you could have done better. If a town drags their heels and takes days to pack up and leave you may not know how that is going to affect the next event. It definitely goes beyond "saving people", however, into the realm of ethical dilemmas, revenge, no-win scenarios and everything else that comes with the end of the world. We're in love with the idea that you accept the result of your actions and keep going.

YES CHOICES!

It's all about the aggregated tree structure. In Alex's previous post it's clear that the model posted is a tree structure (branching choices that go off in different directions) and contains aggregated parts (the culmination of those choices into a single result). I am almost completely satisfied :D thank you Stoic!

The only part of the model purposed I'd be cautious about is the finale structure. In your model both the red and blue story lines end up with the same result . . .

http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Choiceprob.jpg

This is not an aggregated choice but one where your choices end up at the same ending point. For it to be an aggregated choice then the blue line would drift to its own finale point (the one below it) rather than the red line. . .

http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Choicefix.jpg

This is important because if it's not aggregated and the end results are the same then the choices made previously don't matter! However if they are aggregated (arriving at the same point but resulting in differences based on previous choices) then they do matter! Thus, the significance is clear, aggregated choices are important because it allows the previous choices to MATTER and (for example) will cause the blue and red story lines to be important rather than 2 different trails to the same place. But I assume that this is what is meant.

Furthermore, if the game turns out like I assume Alex meant, then I think all my questions/ concerns are answered. :) If it's done well I think we'll have a game that people will want to play and remember!

Aaron
05-11-2012, 04:47 PM
But more importantly, like real life you don't necessarily know what the best path would be anyway.

You might though when you replay the game. Or look up a guide on GameFAQs.

JokerAR
05-11-2012, 05:04 PM
That depends upon the game's logic when handling your decisions: deciding to fight, for example, may lead to a tree branch- or it may lead to a behind the scenes dice roll with a variable loss of followers, soldiers, food etc. This way decisions could have unpredictable outcomes alongside standard branch points.

Torgamous
05-11-2012, 05:17 PM
This is important because if it's not aggregated and the end results are the same then the choices made previously don't matter! However if they are aggregated (arriving at the same point but resulting in differences based on previous choices) then they do matter! Thus, the significance is clear, aggregated choices are important because it allows the previous choices to MATTER and (for example) will cause the blue and red story lines to be important rather than 2 different trails to the same place. But I assume that this is what is meant.

The choices made previously in red and blue led to the same situation before the finale. That's not the game making your choices not matter, that's your choices logically negating each other. If you save more people in one area but less in another, and move faster in one area but slower in another, then in the end you can have saved the same number of people in the same amount of time, and that won't mean your choices don't matter.

Alex
05-11-2012, 05:26 PM
I get what Knivesalot and Torgamous are both saying. What I wanted to illustrate in the example is that you can make different decisions along the way, but you can potentially make the same decision if the variables align that way.

What I did not illustrate is that the red path may have different options than the blue path at the finale, but if the player chooses they could end the same way. Imagine that instead of three options there were 10 (for example), and the red path locked out the top three and the blue path locked out the bottom three. There is still some overlap. Not the easiest concept to illustrate, I'll admit, and not the easiest thing to implement, either, but that is definitely our goal.

belamoor
05-11-2012, 06:12 PM
To mention it, we are intentionally trying to make it so that there is no "best" path where you save everyone. But more importantly, like real life you don't necessarily know what the best path would be anyway. You may save half a town and wonder if you could have done better. If a town drags their heels and takes days to pack up and leave you may not know how that is going to affect the next event. It definitely goes beyond "saving people", however, into the realm of ethical dilemmas, revenge, no-win scenarios and everything else that comes with the end of the world. We're in love with the idea that you accept the result of your actions and keep going.
The way Alex talks about choices is very promising to me. Correct me if i am wrong, do players making different choices on one event can still sort of "make up" for it on another ? That would be awesome, in a way that it may allow to choose what you are able to sacrifice, and what you wish not to, but having a possibility to arrive in largely the same result, had you taken another route. That is of-course if players will have an idea of what they are sacrificing, atleast in a short term.
The other way would be stumbling blindly in a harsh world, trying to survive and make a right call. Sounds like a definition of mature storytelling.:)

lamaz
05-11-2012, 08:23 PM
Yes, yes and yes, this sounds excellent. I love it when you have to make a decision - the tougher the better - and then stick with it. There's always a situation that I would like to achieve, but I never save and load to make it happen. It's great to stick with the decisions you have made and see how it all comes back at you later.

I also like the fact that you don't necessarily know what you want to decide. I mean you know it's not good if people die, but you have no idea if saving them will cause a lot more suffering on some other occasion. Maybe you left someone behind earlier because he was lazy or stole from people, and it turns out he could have helped you a lot later, or better yet, you have no way of knowing.

Flickerdart
05-11-2012, 08:42 PM
I played a game (Yawhg) at the Toronto Comic Arts festival that was very similar to this structure in concept. You have 6 turns to go to places, where you will gain certain stat-ups and a random event where your decision influences other stuff that you might get. After the end, there are two more turns where you can use your stats to help the survivors survive by doing what you've trained to do. It was quite fun, and really replayable, because there were many choices to be made. If a Banner Saga episode is 10 hours long with a structure like this, then it will have absolutely insane replayability, just to see all the choices play out - even the couple minute long Yawhg, I'd wager, could be replayed at least five times and you'd still find something new every time.

Alex
05-11-2012, 11:47 PM
Oh man, I am truly jealous. I'm a huuuuge fan of Emily Carrol (her art hangs out on my desktop roughly half the time) and the concept for Yawhg looks freaking cool. Impatiently awaiting the chance to try it out!

LoneGunman
05-12-2012, 04:11 AM
In the end, I suspect if you make each choice have the impact you mentioned but in effect offers different sorts of benefits such that you don't necessarily win or lose with each decision but you simply affect the finale, it'll work just fine. For example, taking the town example, you could argue that waiting means you lose time but gain more people that can be used to gather/hunt later or even be used as a potential solution for a future choice (i.e. the sacrifice the few for the many) costs you time but gives you those people. Meanwhile, just leaving town and leaving them behind, costs you the extra people (and potential help with future choices) but gives you more time for a future choice where time could be the currency (i.e. you'd have time later to wait for people from another town that happen to have more warriors or you have the time to follow a sub-quest that you wouldn't have had before). In effect, instead of having set events based on game time, they might be based on another progress metric while allowing time to be a currency along with people, weapons, food, etc.

I remember loving Castles (old game) because of the random chained events that tied to each other. You'd get this one event talking about some noble visiting you and offering you some choices (send him away, give him gold, let him stay in the castle). After a little time passed, you'd get another event that worked off your decision from the previous choice (e.g. you let him stay, now he demands you help him with something). Depending on the events and the choices you made, it could end early or continue on for a while. But in the end, you got something for it, always. Either you got gold, reputation, resources, etc. So, in effect, you could make a "bad" decision but it wasn't an all or nothing decision. You'd still get something (or maybe you wouldn't but it would be retained in the game state and might come back to haunt you later) regardless of the decision.

The great thing about it is it doesn't prematurely end the game (unless you just screwed up the other aspects of the game) but really added to the atmosphere of the game (you felt like a ruler having to make decisions other than moving sliders and managing resources). Plus, I feel like it makes the development a bit easier because you don't necessarily have to plan out every event, just major ones like the ones you illustrated. Sure, there might be some balance issues and it would be nice if you can factor in the type of previous event so that you don't constantly get similar types of events delivering the same rewards every time.

My two cents. :)

lg

knivesalot
05-12-2012, 11:36 AM
I get what Knivesalot and Torgamous are both saying. What I wanted to illustrate in the example is that you can make different decisions along the way, but you can potentially make the same decision if the variables align that way.

What I did not illustrate is that the red path may have different options than the blue path at the finale, but if the player chooses they could end the same way. Imagine that instead of three options there were 10 (for example), and the red path locked out the top three and the blue path locked out the bottom three. There is still some overlap. Not the easiest concept to illustrate, I'll admit, and not the easiest thing to implement, either, but that is definitely our goal.

Bam, that's exactly what I thought you meant Alex :). I was just making sure because the assumption I was making was that each story choice wasn't mutually exclusive (if you went down the red path for awhile you could still jump over to the blue path). So when I saw the red and blue paths =ing the same result, I just had to be sure :).

But just being thorough, I would like to make clear the importance of actually having mutually exclusive choices (choice aggregation).

For example, if choices are non-mutually exclusive and allow for the character to jump between paths then this makes choices NOT MATTER in favor of more story-line flexibility.

http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Choiceanalysis.jpg

But if choices are mutually exclusive (choice aggregation) then choices DO MATTER but the story-line is less flexible.

http://i940.photobucket.com/albums/ad241/knivesalot/Choiceanalysis2.jpg

This is important because most games fall into a story-line pattern where their choices are COMPLETELY independent and then we end up with a braid story like rather than a tree. Thus, my point is that, while allowing characters flexibility is all well and good, without mutually exclusive choices (choice aggregation) then you just have a braid story line because the choices are independent (even if it is made relatively complex).]


I get what Knivesalot and Torgamous are both saying. What I wanted to illustrate in the example is that you can make different decisions along the way, but you can potentially make the same decision if the variables align that way.

What I did not illustrate is that the red path may have different options than the blue path at the finale, but if the player chooses they could end the same way. Imagine that instead of three options there were 10 (for example), and the red path locked out the top three and the blue path locked out the bottom three. There is still some overlap. Not the easiest concept to illustrate, I'll admit, and not the easiest thing to implement, either, but that is definitely our goal.

But in response to this, I think Stoic already has a handle on what's going on with a semi-mutually exclusive story-line. Genius compromise (choices matter and they allow more flexibility)!

So anyways, I am now super excited!

Mudfly
05-12-2012, 01:42 PM
I really like what was written in the yellow posts! Thank you guys at stoic for being awesome!

Just a quick question though... What if i make a lot of bad decisions and i end up in a spot where i canít beat the game? Will i be forced to restart the game entirely (which i guess is what i would like) or will there be some sort of reverse function to move the story back enough to allow me to correct my mistakes?

lamaz
05-12-2012, 01:54 PM
I really like what was written in the yellow posts! Thank you guys at stoic for being awesome!

Just a quick question though... What if i make a lot of bad decisions and i end up in a spot where i can’t beat the game? Will i be forced to restart the game entirely (which i guess is what i would like) or will there be some sort of reverse function to move the story back enough to allow me to correct my mistakes?

That's a good question. It would be cool if you had to start from scratch, but it could get really tedious if you failed more than once or twice. That would almost surely mean that the game wouldn't do very well financially. Starting from a save file could help or it could be that you had saved too late and then you wouldn't be able to change the fact that you are going to lose at some point.

I'd like to see some solution where you could still lose the game, but it wouldn't feel that much of a failure. For example you got to see some cool ending scene, which would change based on how you lost and what it meant for the rest of the world. That way you could lose in the game, but you'd get to see something that made it worthwhile for you. I don't know if that would be enough to keep players interested though, it depends so much on the execution. Interesting to see how they will handle this.

Mudfly
05-12-2012, 02:16 PM
I'd like to see some solution where you could still lose the game, but it wouldn't feel that much of a failure. For example you got to see some cool ending scene, which would change based on how you lost and what it meant for the rest of the world. That way you could lose in the game, but you'd get to see something that made it worthwhile for you. I don't know if that would be enough to keep players interested though, it depends so much on the execution. Interesting to see how they will handle this.

Great idea! that would be really cool! It's almost how Sid Meierís games usually end... If you've played really well you get a nicer ending than if you played poorly...
(and now i really fell like playing pirates!)

JokerAR
05-12-2012, 04:18 PM
If that's the case I'll almost certainly never see the Banner Saga's ending. It'll be Oregon Trail all over again, my wagon's axle will break and my army will all die of dysentery. (I blame everyone else for my poor future strategic decisions)

Torgamous
05-12-2012, 08:08 PM
If that's the case I'll almost certainly never see the Banner Saga's ending. It'll be Oregon Trail all over again, my wagon's axle will break and my army will all die of dysentery. (I blame everyone else for my poor future strategic decisions)

It's your fault for packing lots of bullets and nothing else. Why did you even bring any bullets at all? Vikings don't have guns. That was a horrible choice.

Eberict
05-13-2012, 06:58 AM
A familiar structure to me! Reminds me of Tactics Ogre:

http://i.imgur.com/rzQXV.jpg

There were no good, right, or wrong choices in Tactics Ogre, just choices. The choices you made affected who lived, who died, who you'd encounter later, and how you'd make your way to the game finale. The three main paths you could veer to or from were Chaos, Order, or Neutral, and you could veer away from a path as well if you strayed too far down of it since they do intersect at times (like Alex' handsome chart there suggests also). Ultimately, it made big differences in who you fought for and whether you moved on to rule the continent as a tyrant or acted as a kingmaker for someone else (or just left it up for grabs even).

There were also a couple of sidequests, all timed, that required you go to certain spots on the map before X number of battles or days had passed, or else you'd miss out on side stories and extra characters. Non-essential and tied to other time limits imposed on you, so you always had to make that choice of whether to pursue or ignore.

Once you finished the game, the power of the World Tarot allowed you to go back to certain branching points and replay from there without having to restart. In this way were you able to discover just how differently your life (and the lives of those around you) could have gone and watch all those scenes that you missed out on. It's a good system, and it looks like Banner Saga will be employing something similar. Exciting!

Troll
05-13-2012, 07:48 AM
A TRPG of clan survival based on a time factor and events that are influenced by it and precedent events does look extremely unique.
I know no other TRPG where the world revolves around events with you having to undergo its harshness, copared to most games where the events wait for you to "activate" them.

JokerAR
05-13-2012, 08:15 AM
I'm hoping it's this lack of user activation that gets me to finally finish a TRPG. Much as I enjoyed titles like Tactics Ogre the ability to sit and regrind through past battles tends to grab me and then ultimately weary me. A little more forced forwards momentum could be just what I need to kick that habit!

Eberict
05-13-2012, 09:24 PM
Yeah, if I can get the Tactics Ogre without 7 hours of auto-battle to level up my unlocked new/unique classes, I'm all for it!

Suzie Q Sailaway
05-13-2012, 10:38 PM
I love the fact that the story doesn't sit around waiting for you to become T3H UB3R \/1K!NG!! and gives you more than two or three big choices that will make or break the finale. :D Everything I hear is so in line with what I'm imagining the game will be. S'awesome!

Troll
05-14-2012, 06:40 AM
Yeah, if I can get the Tactics Ogre without 7 hours of auto-battle to level up my unlocked new/unique classes, I'm all for it!

That was hell, in the end having a finger / foot on the controller to pass the messages while both teams were on auto was what I did while doing something else.

Eberict
05-14-2012, 10:04 AM
That was hell, in the end having a finger / foot on the controller to pass the messages while both teams were on auto was what I did while doing something else.

The updated PSP version removes the team training battles, actually. I had to auto-battle and police the PSP to make sure nobody died on the single map full of dragonkin... which was actually an improvement. However, I then had to fight a whole bunch of dragons and tame them and sell them and hunt some other thing for thirty 2% drop rate items. I got fed up, used a Game Genie-type thing, and just gave myself the items; I've had enough of 2% drop rate farming on WoW to last me a lifetime!

GorillaGrod
05-14-2012, 05:04 PM
Exciting concept, that I am very excited to learn more about. I really like the idea of the story is not waiting for us, it just seems different and fresh.

txitxo
05-16-2012, 06:36 AM
Good posting knivesalot! Keep it up.

Agreed on having a few mutually exclusive choices, but just to complicate diagrams further, some if not most of these, should be affected by various choices not just one. Come to think about it, that's probably what you mean in aggregation :D.

More importantly, I'll be more interested on the "hopping" from event state to next event state and how it's done. It would be really cool if some supposedly "locked out" states could be achieved by doing something especially hard or really well. Like say your morale was so low, that next state's "optimal" state couldn't be achieved, but by winning the next battle without losing anyone and/or especially quick your morale boosted. In diagram terms, think starfox 64/lylat wars secret paths.

Good discussion everyone, may Banner Saga be stepping stone for game narrative! Skal!

Surtr
05-16-2012, 08:14 AM
A big yes from me for choices that really matter. King of Dragon Pass is great at this (at least the original 1999 version, I haven't played the new one), and there can hardly be a better inspiration for the Banner Saga than this classic game. :)

Eberict
05-16-2012, 10:49 AM
A big yes from me for choices that really matter. King of Dragon Pass is great at this (at least the original 1999 version, I haven't played the new one), and there can hardly be a better inspiration for the Banner Saga than this classic game. :)

Haha, Surtr, KoDP on iOS is the same, just ported and altered to graphically fit on the iPhone. The way it handles choices hasn't changed!

Kimberly
05-16-2012, 06:52 PM
Haha, Surtr, KoDP on iOS is the same, just ported and altered to graphically fit on the iPhone. The way it handles choices hasn't changed!

There are actually some slight changes. For example, you can no longer adjust the amount of crafters you have. This is because the standard strategy was for players to dial up their crafters to the maximum at the start of the game, as this was simply the best strategy. Hence, there was no need for the slider, and the iOS version doesn't include it. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the iOS version might actually have a few more scenes than the original.

knivesalot
05-16-2012, 08:37 PM
Agreed on having a few mutually exclusive choices, but just to complicate diagrams further, some if not most of these, should be affected by various choices not just one. Come to think about it, that's probably what you mean in aggregation .

More importantly, I'll be more interested on the "hopping" from event state to next event state and how it's done. It would be really cool if some supposedly "locked out" states could be achieved by doing something especially hard or really well. Like say your morale was so low, that next state's "optimal" state couldn't be achieved, but by winning the next battle without losing anyone and/or especially quick your morale boosted. In diagram terms, think starfox 64/lylat wars secret paths.

Exactly!

AndyG
05-16-2012, 09:31 PM
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.


Kaffis post reminds me of the Never Winter Nights game which had a system for tracking your "relationship" (I forgot the term used in the game) with different factions. Every action or decision you make can positively or negatively affect your relationship with any number of in game factions.

Aleonymous
10-12-2014, 04:07 AM
Resurrecting this 2.5y old thread :)

It was a good read, especially now, after the first part of the game was revealed. So, it seems that Stoic kept true to their word, and followed a more or less "extended braid-like" story line. For instance, in TBS1, I can easily identify what Alex referred to as "Events" (http://stoicstudio.com/forum/showthread.php?40-For-the-Love-of-God-Choices!&p=1704&viewfull=1#post1704) the "situations" in Frostvellr, Ridgehorn, Einartoft or Boersgard, that could be handled in several different ways that were almost always available to the player right off the start (with some exceptions). Specifically:

@Frostvell: Stay outside or get in? (To get secretly in, you need Egil alive) Make friends with Onef/Ekkill or not?
@Ridgehorn: Tolerate Ludin's behavior or be rid of him?
@Einartoft: Meddle with the Varl's business or not? Destroy the bridge or help protect it?
@Boersgard: (To get inside easily, you need Sigbjorn) Prioritize supplies, refugee housing or fighting at the gates?