🎮️ Game Design

Updated at 2018-12-02 21:09

Choices are what defines games as a medium. Without any choices, a game is nothing more than a visual story.

Having choices in a game is a good start... Player has a choice when the number of possible actions he can take is greater than the number of actions he can make in a single gameplay.

Dialogue: You can be nice or mean. Combat: You can dodge left, dodge right, use your shield or attack.

.. but meaningful choices are your goal. Meaningful choice is when different sequences of actions have different outcome. If there is only one right choice for a scenario, it stops being meaningful. At the very least, you need the illusion of meaningful choices.

Dialogue: You can be nice or mean. -> You choose being mean. -> Has no effect on what happens -> Not meaningful: Choosing either way will lead to same outcome.

Dialogue: You can be nice or mean. -> You choose being mean. -> You are killed without possibility to act. -> Not meaningful: Choosing nice is the only real choice.

Consequence is different from choice. If the player cannot reason the outcome of his choices, you are using consequences in your game design, not choices. This is a very strong approach in narrative, but harder to use.

Choice: Heavy Rain: - Cut your finger to gain information or not?

Consequence: Chrono Trigger: - Do stuff at a festival e.g. steal old man's lunch, find a lost kitty. - Later used in court to determine if you are guilty or innocent.

Morality questions in role-playing games are usually stupid. Having choices is good but they usually go to the extremes when taken out of the video game context.

A. Free a child that you just met, feed him and raise him as your own son. B. Obliterate the kid and scatter his remains to send a message.

Key is to understanding what people find moral and immoral. This will make you create more interesting decisions in games as people have differences what they find moral and immoral.

Morality can be split into 5 or so "stats". The following were core morality dimensions found in a study listed at the sources. Some people are more sensitive in other dimensions than others.

  1. Care - basic kindness and avoiding physical harm
  2. Fairness - equal opportunity, and punishment, to people
  3. Loyalty - faithfulness to a person, a group or a cause
  4. Authority - respect of the legitimate authority
  5. Purity - against sexual deviance, abusing drugs or something generally disgusting

For example, loyalty-sensitive person feels like turning his back on a family member is highly immoral.

Cultural background affects what feels moral or immoral.

Germans value: Care, Fairness Americans value: Authority, Loyalty, Purity

These morality dimensions are not exclusive. People can be high or low in all dimensions.

People that are high in a dimension find stories that revolve around that theme more interesting. This would allow customizing game storytelling so if we would know player moral dimensions better. This could be done with a couple of multiple choice questions at the start of the game. If a person is low on the themed morality, they will just take the most optimal choice related to the gameplay.

You can create tension by making player aware of these multiple dimensions of morality.

Pick one: A. Uphold a legitimate authority. B. Honor your famility obligations.

Pick one: A. Contaminate yourself with a deadly disease. B. Help someone to run away from a gang of murderers.