Why do games punish players for dialogue choices?

Started by Legend, May 15, 2020, 03:33 AM

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I'm playing AC Odyssey but this is common in almost every branching narrative game.

In Odyssey I side with person A instead of person B. Dozens of hours later I side with person B instead of person C.

Doesn't matter. The first choice locked out the second choice and I got the same outcome as if I had sided with C.

Choices should matter in games but this stuff just feels random. How should the player know that a choice is wrong if it is presented as an ok option?


I'm guessing it's just a way to make a player feel like their choice did something. But it's about the least rewarding way they could have done it.


I'm guessing it's just a way to make a player feel like their choice did something. But it's about the least rewarding way they could have done it.
Yeah feedback loops with every other type of gameplay are only minutes long. If you do something wrong during combat, the consequences are obvious and immediate. Yet the consequences of a dialogue choice might not show up for 50 hours.

Plus combat and other forms of gameplay are forgiving. A mistake is something that can be overcome. It would be so so so much nicer if a "wrong" past choice made the desired outcome harder to achieve, but not impossible.

At its core though, I think the whole concept is fundamentally broken as partially shown in this video:

There are so many reasons for a player to chose one option over another and it's impossible for the story to know them. Super early example from AC Odyssey is that there is a plague killing a city so priests are burning everything down. You have the option to kill the priests and save the last remaining sick family, or walk away and let the sick family get killed. Given the current global situation, I approached this choice with a completely different mindset then the developers intended.

I think any sort of branching narrative needs to focus on individual people's reactions being biased, instead of them being right. An NPC can hate you for your actions but the game shouldn't imply that your actions were wrong. Endings can't be tied to how "well" you chose dialogue.


yeah, i generally agree.   

this gameplay mechanic is well intended and "cool on paper" but i've never seen an implementation done "right".   on the one hand you have the almost patronizingly black/white decisions like in infamous where everything is clear to the user:
   A) save person.  
   B) murder person.  

...but the outcomes really don't matter because you'll basically do one play through as "good" and one as "evil" as there is really no room in the gameplay system to bounce between them:

on the other hand you have the incredibly vague choices.  most of the choices seem inconsequential until they are not and then they feel like a random outcome which  is not very satisfying.



May 16, 2020, 01:57 PM Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 01:59 PM by darkknightkryta
The problem with having a very in-depth branching system, is that you need to have the entirety of the story made and the script written.  That way you can have full branching.  If not you get the Telltale games where choices don't matter.

That said, I enjoyed my time with Batman and Wolf Among Us.  While choices only affecting dialogue is a bit lame, it's still nifty at the same time.  It's cool to see choices brought up in conversation.  But on the other side, having something where Two Face still becomes Two Face regardless is kind of lame.

It'll be cool to see if any publisher gives a dev the freedom to make large branching points for games in the future.  Massive 12 episode Telltale games maybe where choices between games significantly affect the story.  But with the way things are now, the story can change between episodes due to fan feedback.  If you do a proper branching system, the story needs to be locked, so you lose that.

As far as the good vs evil stuff goes, it's not too bad.  Since it can affect the way you play.  Playing Infamous as a good guy is pretty different than playing the game as evil.  Saving people and causing no destruction vs just going ham and blowing everything up.  Kind of akin to no kill playthrough in Metal Gear vs Killing.


Reminded me:


You can play Mass Effect 2 so bad, you and everyone else gets killed at the end.  Not sure what happens when you bring that save to Mass Effect 3.


You can play Mass Effect 2 so bad, you and everyone else gets killed at the end.  Not sure what happens when you bring that save to Mass Effect 3.
I love that Mass Effect had bad endings. I think it would be better though if it was more like BOTW though.

Do a good job getting everyone to join your team? Great. Easy fight to save the universe.

Do a bad job? Still can save the universe but it is a lot harder.


I think choices should have a higher consideration of the context and external factors to be considered.

I dislike the good and bad choice system. As it's obvious you need to be the good guy to get the good ending.

What should be done IMO is more moral grey areas, different outcomes that are almost equal in good and loss attained. If you make a decision, a person might die or betray you, but you get power or wealth. Or if you liberate an area, they gain freedom, but the people start to die from hunger and poverty, should they be living under someone else's rule but under better conditions of living?

Also external contexts should influence the outcome of your choices. The story shouldnt be pushed by the protagonist only, and when making choices one should consider other factors in the would happening and that should affect the outcome.