Thoughts on how to signpost choices in a branching sidequest/event chain?

ATT_Turan

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I think the easiest way to achieve this (short of being explicit, as in Wavelength's suggestion) is to make the dialogue very clear when the blacksmith is over-confident and you're encouraging a bad attitude.

Early encounter:
"Whew, thanks for the help! That orc almost had me there."
- No problem! You were doing great until then.
- It's pretty lame to be losing to an orc...you should stick to your job at the forge. <- obviously rude

vs. a late encounter:
"Hah, good to see you here! Do you see these bodies strewn about by my martial might?! Well, I'm off to rid the village of that dragon lord they've been complaining about."
- Ah, sure, you're just the best. You have fun with that dragon. <- obviously dismissive
- You know we actually killed those, right? Going against a dragon will get you obliterated. <- obviously helpful
 

Tiamat-86

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closest things i have to this signposting is:
the quest journal showing the branching rewards.
and a couple center screen "point of no return. proceed anyways?" kinda warnings. extremely obvious.
 

Htlaets

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@Wavelength Absolutely love slay the spire. I think what makes its obvious "This will happen if you choose this" or "roll a dice and you might get the reward or you might get a negative" system work is the fact that you have a finite number of tries to get resources, so resources are valuable. Choosing to get nothing makes it so one step on the rung up the tower has been wasted for you, which harms your entire run, alternatively, a curse can cripple you and end your journey early.

It also manages to be well written in bite sized randomized ways. Regardless, in my case, my game does not have parallels to Slay the Spire, so being that obvious doesn't work.
Still, it's interesting to consider how Slay the Spire does signposting in layers. The first choice is the choice of where you start your route up a section of the tower, the second choice is what nodes you choose to go to. You could just avoid events and go for the guaranteed reward of fighting enemies and going to shop, or you could roll the dice on an event that may or may not help you in your current situation, and then further, once you go into an event, it presents you with either risks or flat out choices with consequences that may be more or less beneficial than just running into a group of enemies.

Regardless, I'm more in your second category, and I have to agree with the idea of communicating the blacksmith's state of mind and confidence more as things move forward. Writing will indeed be key to play on the player's impulses.

Re: signposting objectives: Yeah, obvious is generally best, I agree. I'm not that fond of going as far as compasses in games, but there should be literal signposts and reminders of what's going on and where to go available. Still, there are some memorable games where getting a little lost can be an adventure in itself.

The real difficult non-story thing to signpost are puzzles. Signposting for anything is made more difficult by knowing the solution this is quadruply true for puzzles. Some players may be better at puzzles than others, some players might be worse. In my experience, testing puzzles has been difficult. Having hints pop up after repeated failures can help, too, but doing it too early earns ire from the players that want to figure it out on their own, and doing it too late just frustrates the players that dislike puzzles.

@ATT_Turan Yeah, I've been thinking that might be the best route, with a little more granularity in choices, but same effect. Definitely don't want it to be so subtle that only 10% of players get it in their first playthrough, and I definitely want it to be dynamic enough that players are forced to think about their previous choices.

@Tiamat-86 You might do it more than that without realizing it, but regardless you can never be too obvious with a "your side-quests are gonna expire if you continue" signpost. I do kinda hate when games do a "are you really really sure you want to continue" when it doesn't actually make the side quests expire, though.
 

Tai_MT

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I'll just politely say that you really ought not to trust that too far, definitely not far enough to make fundamental assumptions off people who you only have a couple of posts on an internet forum to go off. I mean, your first post assuming I'm making the quest because of the reward was flat out wrong from the get-go and you're still continuing to make the insinuation despite the fact that I am fairly certain I know the order of my thoughts, especially since in this case I wrote them down in order in my own notes, makes me very highly doubt your ability to cold read, though I have little doubt in your confidence in your ability to do so, and I have very little doubt me telling you your cold reading is wrong would make you consider that possibility, if I had to "cold read" what your reaction to such a reaction would be it would be "Well, that's exactly how someone incapable of real choices would react!" I could be wrong, though.

The assumption was made off your first post because you were heavily focused on delivering the reward rather than the quest itself. Since that first post, it sounds like you've changed your mind and you've been heavily focused on the writing aspect since.

See, when a person is designing a quest backwards, they are heavily focused on the loot outcome rather than the story outcome. Your entire first post was about how to get the player to make the optimal choice to get the best loot and how to signpost what the other loot they were going to get would be.

Someone focused on the consequences of the quest itself wouldn't have bothered even posting about the loot table at all. Why? Because it eats up a significant amount of the post if that's not really what they want to discuss.

In short, you signposted wrong if that wasn't your intent in the first post.

As for continuing to insinuate you're doing things this way... I haven't. Not even once. You're either making it obvious here that you're skimming my posts rather than actually reading them, or you're still so hung up on the accusation that you are continuing to think the conversation we've been having about writing and signposting is still about that. At this point, I'm not even sure why you care what I think about how you're designing your Quest. Either you're doing it backwards and I've given you advice not to, or you're doing it forwards and you can disregard anything I've said on the subject. What is the reason for getting hung up on it?

Feel free to doubt my "cold reading" if you want (it's really more examining intent to predict behavior, so I'm not even sure "cold reading" is accurate, but it's the only phrase I can think of for what it's similar to). You certainly don't have to take my word for anything. I know it isn't right all the time. But, the longer I interact with someone, the better I become at reading them and predicting them and getting to the heart of the matter.

In any case, I haven't been "cold reading" you at all beyond the first post of trying to figure out the real issue of your post and what you're really asking. But, if you'd like me to start, I can. I've mostly been tackling the issue at hand and correcting the assertions you've been making.

Still, that's neither here nor there. It has little to do with the topic at hand. It was an off-hand explanation for a question you asked me (for something I wasn't even talking to you about).

No matter how much effort someone puts into a game with choices, they're still going to be shorthanding human relationships. You're not going to be able to give a player infinite choices to simulate organic conversations like you can in a DND session, they can't play their character an infinite number of ways.

Thank you for agreeing. Now, please, go back and reread the part where I said the instances in which that is acceptable and which ones it's not. Your quest is an instance where it's not acceptable. Or read it for the first time.

Seriously, you're making me wonder if you just skim what I write like a high school child trying to pass a test, or if you're reading what I'm writing because you have basic human decency and want to have a conversation about something we're both passionate about.

On top of that, an interactive medium will always have to take some amount of shortcuts if it doesn't want to create exponential permutations.

Thanks for agreeing again.

This is a common mistake I see. Trope != generic or cliche, there is literally no story written on the planet today that avoids all tropes, because tropes cover every written human story, and there is no such thing as a 100% original work.

I always love when people say that. "No 100% Original Work!". Right up there with, "Every story has already been told before!". I don't believe it now and I never will believe it. Perhaps if people simply have no imagination, that could be true. Or, if people don't analyze all the paths cut through the forest before them and look to see where there are no paths to tread, this might be true. But, that's not how I'm wired. I'll cut my own paths, thank you.

As for tropes...

Yeah, please reread what I said about them. There is a time and a place for them. They exist for a reason. I said that. I'm not sure why you're agreeing with me, but phrasing it as if you're disagreeing.

Did you even read my post? I have no desire to repeat myself, or to go back and paste in what I already said on the matter.

Star wars was considered unique when it originally came out, it literally redefined the term space opera to mean something entirely different. But the OT's basic plot structure is the Hero's Journey but in space. It's trope filled, follows the formula to a T, but is nonetheless considered a pioneering work in its genre.

It's actually a retelling of a Japanese film, except set in space. So... basically ripped off. At the time, I'm sure it was "redefining", in an age where there was basically no sci fi in the movie industry because it was believed it didn't sell tickets.

Probably why it was framed more as a fantasy than sci fi (and continues to be framed that way, leaping more and more into space magic than anything else).

As for why people like the series... I have no idea. I couldn't get into it because it never seemed that interesting to me. It's always felt like it meanders too much and there's too many "conveniences" to make the plot worthwhile. Though, honestly, the character of Luke Skywalker in the last movie was really good. It's just too bad he wasn't that great in the first two (I have seen every Star Wars movie there is and I'm still ambivalent on the entire series).

But, to be fair, I feel this way about pretty much all of Star Trek too. Except for maybe Deep Space 9, which was about a war and not stupid clichés with easily predictable endings.

Heck, there's such a lack of "Space Opera" out there in TV or movies, that my first encounter with it ever was probably Firefly. Then Deep Space 9. Then Mass Effect 1 (I know, not a movie).

Or, maybe my standards are just too high.

Even if you avoid writing based on any experience or knowledge of movies, books, games you've played, etc. you'll inevitably have tropes within your story to some extent. Even trope subversions have been done enough to be considered tropes, and some of the worst large scale writing disasters have been caused by writers trying too hard to subvert tropes and expectations (Looking at you GOT season 8).

Still not sure why you're going on about this. Go back and reread my post.

In the end you're going to fall into any number of tropes, the real key is how they're arranged to make a unique pattern.

I was discussing using tropes for characters and their personalities and responses. As well as when that's acceptable or not. I've got no idea what you're current on about now.

Seriously, I outlined when it is acceptable to do this and when it isn't.

Why are you talking about tropes in a general sense?

Please read my post.

I'm not sure where this "if you base ultimate outcomes on aggregate choices, that means the characters show no depth and you're a lazy bad bad cliche trope writer" take is coming from. And... frankly you contradict yourself further down.

I never said that. I said your choices should flavor your outcomes. This means, each choice should be reflected in the outcome. If you help the blacksmith at the first choice and only helped them once, it should give you a flavor of outcome that is different than helping the blacksmith at the third choice and only helping them there. This is good writing. To do anything less is bad writing.

It means you'll need to do the:

AAA
AAB
ABA
ABB

Nonsense you seem so keen to justify not doing.

RPG's are not "choose your own adventure" books where many pages can dump you out onto the same except page with text and then hope it still makes sense to the player. If that's what you're intending to do with your "branching choices", then I'm urging you to not bother since you're too lazy to follow it through to the end anyway. Save yourself some time and effort if this is going to be your result.

There is no one thing that guarantees that people will like a character. If a character is poorly written it doesn't matter if the interaction with them is short or long, obviously the player won't care as much, that's not the point I'm making.

Except it literally was. I quoted it.

"The benefit to having an NPC you interact with throughout the story is that it allows for permanence of the character, if that character serves a recurring function while you interact with them it furthers player investment with a character, even if they're just side characters. A one-off sidequest npc is not going to be that memorable 9/10 times even if the sidequest itself is well-written."

You literally say, "the more you interact with a character, the more investment a player has in that character". It's right here.

A point that I shot to smithereens immediately after quoting it... and now you're agreeing with what I said about it.

The point I'm making is far more specific. If your player cares more about/is more invested in a character that appears in a single side quest than your party members, I'd say the problem is that your party members are poorly written. I'd continue this and say that if your players care more about that character from a single side quest than they do about recurring side quest characters, the problem is that your recurring side quest characters are poorly written.

Yeah, I made that point. Thank you for changing your mind on the subject.

My point is that the player will not be as invested in them as a party member or someone within the main plot, it is not that I'll be making them so generic as to have no character moments or to not make the quest line about them. Which... my main plot would be rather crap if people were more interested in the fate of tertiary characters than the fate of characters involved in the main plot.

Not sure what you're talking about here or trying to defend. There are times and places where you need to have characterization and where you don't. In the instance of your quest, the story is entirely about the characters. It isn't about your main characters. It isn't about your party. It's about the player meddling with the affairs of two opposing groups and viewpoints and in which you want the player to actually care about the consequences.

That means, you don't get to "shorthand" anything. If you want that writing to be effective, you are going to have put on your A-Game, put the work forward, not generalize anything, and spend time MAKING the player care about the plight of these characters AND who these characters are.

If you DON'T do this, then you are effectively stating that all that matters is the reward for the completion of the quest. At which point, why are you putting so much effort into just delivering loot to a player when you don't need to?

Your options with this quest are, "The player must care about these choices, therefore each choice made needs to matter" or "The player only needs to care about the outcome, therefore only the rewards matter". There isn't a "middle ground" here.

I'm also recognizing that there is more to character motivation than other characters.

There's a lot of assumptions about the presentation and promises of a side quest here.

....... So, let's cover this. I've already stated that dialogue will change based on several specific choices. You're literally outlining the entirety of my posts here: that the overall outcome will be based on aggregate choices with different dialogue based on individual choices.

No, I was refuting what you were telling me I was saying. Please, read my post. You said that what I was saying was, "you need an individual and separate outcome for every single set of choices!" when that was never what I said. What I was saying that the more choices you have, the more flavors of that outcome you need in order to reflect the choices made.

AAA
AAB
ABA
ABB

While the quest itself will take place over the course of the game, I have it more planned that if you played all the quests back to back (impossible, due to them happening during different portions of the game), it'd only be about an hour or two of investment and most of that will be gameplay. That is not "5 movies later" or a massive fake out. The player will not be constantly wondering throughout the game "I wonder what's going to happen to the NPCs from that one side quest chain I was doing", or at least I hope not, as that would mean the main story is being overshadowed by a minor side quest.

Okay, so it's obvious here you didn't understand my point.

If your game is 20 hours long, you interact with it 5 times through the whole game, you are interacting with it roughly once every 4 hours. Thus, "five movies later" hyperbole. Your players will not care about it as much as you currently do, because it takes so long to get to the end of it.

Let's go back to Mass Effect 1 and the "Conrad Verner" questline. Almost every single player on their first run of that game didn't even finish that quest. Why? Because, you do 3 interactions with the character at three separate stages of the game and it isn't clear when the player is meant to interact with the character again during progression of the game. The quest literally forces the player to "do a lap of the Citadel and talk to everyone" to see if any other quests are like this as well. Several of them are (bad game design) like this.

People forgot about Conrad Verner. Didn't care about the quest. Didn't even care about it resolving in Mass Effect 3. They didn't even think about it in Mass Effect 2 until Conrad shows up and says you did things to him you never did ("you shoved a gun in my face!").

This is what a "long running quest" looks like. It's "how not to do it".

Meanwhile, if you play Dragon Age Origins, you are prompted to get a quest updated by the questgiver. "Come back if you find any more scales and I'll make you more armor!". The player remembers that they should return each time they get more scales. They don't remember this because they enjoyed the interact with the character (their running gag gets old VERY fast), but because the quest giver says to return when you have more of an item, so that you know what to do with that item when you obtain it.

It's more of a "Hey, there are those NPCs I did those quests for before. Wonder what they're up to now" intention.

You'll need to signpost this throughout the game then. Because almost every player is conditioned to a "one and done" mentality in terms of NPC's. That is, they talked to the NPC's, took care of their issue, and move along to never talk to them again because they're going to repeat dialogue until the end of time.

This is why World of Warcraft adopted the ! system over NPC's heads. It's a means to combat the "one and done" behavior and to differentiate between who has something for the player to do and who has pointless dialogue.

Again, this is a side quest.

Comparing a side quest with tertiary characters to a movie is kinda pushing it, isn't it?

I have no idea what you're on about here. As the writer, you dictate the importance of your characters. Especially in terms of a side quest. Not all side quests are created equal. Why? Because of their intent. This is why I gave you the list of rules in my first post for not creating a quest backwards.

Don't create a quest unless you have a story to tell.

If you have a story to tell, then the characters matter, and the player liking those characters is important. It creates investment in the story and the quest to tell.

If you don't have a story to tell and are just creating a method to drop loot... then there's no point to getting the player invested in the questline or the characters at all (waste of dev time).

So, if you want the player to care, you don't do what George Lucas did with Jar Jar Binks, and you instead write your characters well and make the player care about them.

That is not what I said. I said, to paraphrase, limiting yourself ONLY to having individual decisions in short bursts with their consequences is a restrictive, two dimensional way of approaching a story. I also literally said I have many choices exactly like that: the choices have immediate consequences and then are specifically referenced! I have dialogues with dozens of branches in various events precisely because of this!

Oh, I know what you said.

"There's nothing inherently wrong with that, I have instances where I actually do that, with immediate consequences. But, I feel it's rather two-dimensional to consider that the only viable way to write."

Then, you've got this little snippet:

"It's not a matter of:
AAB
vs
BAA
or
BBA
etc.

It's a matter of, in this case, of how many Bs the player has chosen by the fourth choice. In this example if the player chose BBB then they cannot choose A in the last choice."


What I'm talking about is this design right here. You are saying, "There are only a few outcomes, and picking a choice too much gets you one of those outcomes". A "best of 3" scenario.

"Best of 3" scenarios are best served with the "two dimensional" way of doing things. Why? Because each INDIVIDUAL CHOICE doesn't matter, and only picking X amount of choices matters. You can boil such a situation down to a single choice, lose nothing, and still get the rewards into the hands of the player.

Thinking of your quest as a "best of 3" scenario is backwards Quest Design. That is, you're designing the quest from the standpoint of the rewards and not the standpoint of telling a compelling story. And yes, "Backwards Quest Design" doesn't have to start with delivering loot to the player. If you're designing a quest with the endings already in mind and are working backwards from that to get the players to each specific ending... Then You Are Designing Quests Backwards.

Now, you say you aren't designing quests backwards. For the sake of argument, I've been simply treating that as truth. You aren't designing quests backwards, you're just not great at describing what is important to you as a dev in terms of the design of this quest. For the "I'm not designing quests backwards" statement to be true, then this is the likely explanation for the way you've been trying to explain your quest, how it works, and what the players should be doing in it in the way you have been.

My response to your "best of three" scenario was "don't do it that way, because you wont get any player investment out of the characters or even the questline". It was also, "If your goal isn't to get the player investment out of the characters or quest, then just end the quest as quickly as possible to get the rewards in their ends during the time it matters to the player".

Likewise, at this point, we're far off the topic of how you signpost what you're trying to signpost. Which is, "if you have a best of three type questline resolution, then you aren't going to be able to signpost any outcome to the player effectively, only maybe set up foreshadowing".

And, since your quest runs a really long time... if you manage to actually create investment, your players are going to feel cheated for you putting one sign overtop of the other... and if you don't create investment in the player, then the player really isn't even going to care if they even check up on your characters from time to time or even what the reward is... unless you make it obvious what the reward is and that they should be coming back at specific points.

But, as a "best of three" type questline, you very likely aren't going to create much, if any, actual investment in the characters. What you're going to have is players who care about planting their own worldview on the game, rather than doing some deep dive into considering what they're telling an NPC (which seems to be the tertiary goal you've got in mind for this quest... though this would probably be far more interesting if it was the primary goal of the quest and you spent a lot more time in your game making the player do this sort of thing so that by the time they get to the quest, they're conditioned to be doing it and thinking about things from this perspective. But, you seem to be doing this as a "one off" type thing, so good luck making that tertiary goal anything more than a "Guide Dang It!" moment for any players invested and a side note not remembered by any who aren't invested).


As with this entire exchange, you appear to be taking a few too many assumptions about what people are actually saying.

Um, no. Please reread my post. You're skimming what I said to you, making an assumption about what I'm talking about, and replying to what you've made up in your own head.

I quoted your own line back to you after quoting it (using it even in the same context you used it!) and then asked why you're advocating to be a bad DM.

That is:
1. You've said you don't have dialogue changes for quests given (but, you may consider it! You wrote this as an addendum to your first reply on the subject, in response to my post!).
2. You've said that your quest is a "best of three" type quest.
3. You've said that just having characters around a long time means players get invested in them.
4. You've said that characters should be written as tropes.

These are things you've said. I am working with your own words here. I'm not working with any assumptions.

What you are quoting from me is my saying that in a quest like this, you are going to have those permutations if you're a good writer. And, you won't have them if you're a terrible and lazy writer. No assumptions necessary. These are facts. Immutable Truth. I am essentially explaining this point of view in excruciating detail so that anyone can understand it, if they took the time to read it.

And you are saying I'm making assumptions on what people are actually explaining by explaining my point of view so that it can be understood.

Pot, meet kettle.

... You literally said before that just having changes in dialogue isn't enough.

I never said that once.

I've been saying that every choice should have a consequence. If your choice doesn't have a consequence, it shouldn't exist.

I'm not sure why you think my saying one thing means another. Especially when I've discussed this at least three times now.

Once it was brought up (by the other poster, not by you, amusingly enough) about the dialogue changing, I explained my stance in more detail that such changes are enough. That is, they are a consequence of making the choice. Because, you know, I made two long-winded posts about how making choices changes people and outcomes and how people view you and what they think of you (which is actually ME broaching this consequence before anyone else :D ).

I mean, I can understand how that might get a little confusing if you're reading my part about "people making non-choices" completely out of context, but that part has never been the focus of any of my posts, so I don't know why anyone would get hung up on it when it really wasn't that important.

...............................................................
I think you're confusing me saying "rewards have an effect on in-character and out of character behavior and side characters generally don't have the same priority as main characters, so rewards have a bigger motivational effect than they would otherwise in this case" with "Side characters should not be fleshed out, players should not grow to like side characters."

First, I'm going to disagree with this. Mostly because I've already refuted it in two other posts before this one. Read my refutation there so I don't have to write it again. Thank you.

Second, it's you who said they don't have to be fleshed out. Heck, you've been arguing for making characters tropes and not important because "oh, they're side characters" or "they're NPC's" or "they're tertiary".

I've agreed with that assessment, but told you that your quest can't do that. That is, with the intent of your current quest, you can't do that. It is a character driven quest. That is, it is about the two characters with opposing viewpoints and goals clashing. It isn't about the player. It isn't about the player characters. It isn't about the Main Character. It is about your player caring about the characters involved in this single questline and trying to make the player pick the optimal decision.

This is what you have said your quest is about.

So, you need to flesh out these characters. What they think of the PC matters. What they think of your decisions matters. What they say after each decision point matters. It is there to flesh out the situation, the characters, their emotional states, and their possible outcomes.

If this is truly what your quest is about, then the rewards that make numbers go up do not matter in the slightest and should not be important at all. They are not motivating factors and never will be.

Your players will end the quest based on a few things, because, you know, "I don't design quests backwards".
1. Forcing their own viewpoint of the situation on the characters to resolve the situation. This means a player isn't going to moderate their position. They will go all in one way or all in another way and not change their mind unless you tell them they have to because the Blacksmith will die, and it will need to be obvious.
2. Wanting to be "the good guy". Players will pick whatever option seems "the most like what a hero will do" in any given situation. This means, your players are likely going to do whatever it takes to keep the Blacksmith alive and few people will ever have the Blacksmith end up dead. Those who do, did it intentionally, or are likely going to feel cheated as they didn't see it coming because you couldn't signpost it effectively without making it obvious.
3. Perceived consequences on the world and what other NPC's may think of them. Players don't like to do things that make other characters upset with them, especially characters they enjoy interacting with. If there are no consequences outside this quest, this is a non-factor. If there are, and other characters remark upon it, it can impact gameplay experiences in a number of ways. Too numerous to cover here.

Basically, unless you are designing your quest backwards, the rewards of armor or weapons or XP or Currency are not going to matter to the player at all, because these are not the motivating factors of your quest. Now, if you want those things to be the motivating factors of doing your quest... Then you're engaging in "Backwards Quest Design".

If you are engaging in "Backwards Quest Design", then just keep the whole thing simple, get the loot to the players as quickly as possible and let the players move along with their day. It will save you a ton of dev time and save the player a lot of time engaging with the quest.

It... really isn't. If I was only thinking about the loot side of this I would not have bothered even posting this thread, but the fact that I even posted about the loot has you convinced that that's the only goal of the quest despite repeatedly saying that that's the last thing I thought of.

I haven't said that anywhere except the first post. The fact that you keep bringing it up makes me currently think (as in, right this moment) that the loot side of things is all you care about.

Though, let's be honest here...

If the loot side didn't matter to you at all, you wouldn't have mentioned it at all. You wouldn't continue to bring it up either. Especially unprompted.

You might've also noticed that I do a couple things by this point.
1. I phrase things in such a way that people out themselves. Please note the "If". That is, "If you are doing this, just do it this way". As in, no direct accusation. Because, there is no accusation. People who feel accused by this way of thinking are almost always guilty of whatever accusation they think is being hurled at them. I speak this way as a means to get people to "out" themselves on their actual opinions and viewpoints so that I can get passed the "I need to save face" censorship most people do.

It works on almost any topic. "X type of people are bad because of Y", and then people guilty of X chime in to say they're not bad people rather than never saying they're not those type of people so as not to be associated with it.

All you have to say to any accusation that isn't true is, "That doesn't apply to me, I don't do that." The minute a person accepts the premise and begins trying to defend themselves against it... that's behavior of someone guilty of the premise.

2. I use "You" as a general in public posting areas. It's why I went from making generalized posts to quoting you and picking apart the arguments. When I'm picking apart the arguments, I am directly refuting what someone has said. The repeated quoting is proof of that. A general post for anyone to read or care about is just a post. If I want someone specific to read something I say, or am replying only in part to a single thing someone says, it's easier to just "@" them.

But, hey, it's also easier to write "You" as a general term rather than constantly write, "A Person".

Also Re: Mass effect: You're seeming to make a fundamental wrong assumption there as well: I was referring to the fact that you don't need to make the paragon/renegade choice at all if you help Wrex, and the Paragon Renegade choice is also based on aggregate stat allocation.

Let me also put it this way: I've probably played through ME 1 more than you, for the record. I think I'm 10+ on it but it's been a long time since I've played through, and I've done renegade on it.

"Or, in ME: 1 having the option to talk that one character down peacefully if you have a good relationship with them, but having to kill them if you don't, was also a good example of aggregate choices."

This is what you said. So, it looks like you meant this in a different context than the way it was mentioned. My fault on that one. I misunderstood.

To that end...

You don't have to have a good relationship with Wrex at all. You literally just need to do one quest for him. If you've done that, you can talk him down. Or, you can talk him down with enough Paragon points. Or, you can talk him down with enough Renegade points.

Or....
OORRRRRRRRR

If you don't have enough party members by the time you get to this point in the game, Wrex stands down on his own. No rep check necessary. But... this really only happens if you only recruit Wrex and Tali from the Citadel and ignore every other character.

If you've played through ME1 a total of ten times, then you've played it more than I have. I've done a full run for each of difficulty levels (New Game + on them all after the easiest, tackling each new difficulty as its unlocked) and two extra runs for a Biotic and Tech Shepard (My Biotic Shepard tried to be as destructive and chaotic as possible and basically engaged in every firefight imaginable and recruited as few characters as possible, just to see what the game would do).
 
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Trihan

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Regarding the "you changed your mind since the first post" point, he didn't mention loot in the original post until the 8th paragraph. It very much was not a focal part of the question being asked.
 

Htlaets

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@Tai_MT It really is fine if you just say you misunderstood someone instead of doubling and tripling down. I did not make the majority of my post about the lewt, nor did I even start off the post about the lewt. You're just shadowboxing at this point.

Either way the entirety of your point seems to boil down to this: You think that factoring in rewards to any extent as player motivation in or out of character is bad writing and I could not disagree more.

A story about a bounty hunter will be predicated upon their rewards and what jobs they take based off the rewards. Money, resources, etc. is a motivating factor in characterization, period, bottomline.

And if you want to take out out of character motivation for rewards as even a slight factor of human behavior? You may as well write a book.

And, no, despite your insistence on twisting things, this does not mean I don't want to put in the freaking effort to write. I have already written >400,000 words for my project, that's 2/3rds as many words as exist in the entirety of Dragon age Origins and there are a lot of them that you cannot see in a single playthrough. Why? Because I do tons of branching dialogue, dialogue changes, entire scenes change.

So, I'm perfectly fine with critique, I love it even, but to make the assumption that I'm being lazy about it? Just stop. You do not have enough information to make these kinds of absolute judgements.

Which brings me to "point you're stuck on" #2: aggregate choices are bad bad lazy and a choice should only exist if it has direct consequences (throw away 90% of dialogue choices in any given bioware game, then).

Consider for a moment: ME 1, you don't have to recruit Garrus at all. In ME: 2, there's only one line of throwaway dialogue that recognizes the choice to not recruit Garrus and beyond that Garrus continues talking about the good ol' days of working with you like he would otherwise. Why? Because it's an illogical choice that's not worth creating an exponential workload over. The number of players who actually organically made that choice are probably in the single digits.

You can reasonably predict what an illogical combinations of choices are that will only be seen by the truly strange players or persistent that insist on masochistically seeing every permutation.

Which is to say: the number of players that would choose the aggregate choice of, say, always choosing to encourage the blacksmith in situations where it's signposted as being a blatant lie and the number of people who never choose to encourage the blacksmith when it's more morally ambiguous? That combination is one of those predictably illogical choice combinations.

From the fact that that's an illogical choice combination you can then reasonably predict that the number of people who will take that route will be minimal. You can also reasonably predict that there will be certain common patterns of choices based on how the scenes are written.


Also, funny story, before I made this thread I had finished making a side quest about cold reading so I basically broke out laughing when it was brought up. Not that I didn't know this before I did my research, but let me just point out that the key to cold reading is branching out from the initial impression by asking questions subtly to confirm and narrow down possibilities while also remaining as vague as possible to allow the other party to fill in the blanks to make them think you know more than you do.

A cold reader's goal is more to give the impression that they know everything about a person than it is to actually know concrete details, giving the impression that they know allows them to fish for details in the first place.

Also, I'm not sure what the point is in acting like Mass Effect 1 is on some higher plane of writing than the Star Wars OT like it's a marker for the maturity of your tastes? It's weird. Cause... I love ME: 1 but I would not even rank it top ten in video game writing. It's a major example, there's a lot to look at in terms of good AAA RPG game design, but... It's pulpy, entertaining hard sci-fi space opera. It's in the vein of the Star Trek you dislike so much and uses a ton of its tropes. It has a unique arrangement of tropes, yes, and it's certainly well presented, but definitely not so much so you can put it on a pedestal. It's just a matter of differing taste when compared to other sci-fi.

If you're gonna act snobby about having superior taste at least use something like Sunless Sea as your example.
 
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