Designing a Better RPG – Choice & Consequence

(today’s post: 482 words.)

(Time for another entry into the Designing a Better RPG series!)

I’m starting to think that my definition of “choice & consequence” is different from everyone else’s. Are my standards too high? When I see “C&C” (not the music factory) touted as a bullet point on a video game, I think it means that there will be “consequences” to my “choices”.

Not to pick on the Witcher, a good game I am definitely enjoying, but what I often find is that while there is choice – a lot of good, morally ambiguous choice (another rarity in gaming) – there is, unfortunately, little consequence. And the consequence we get is of little significance.

If I’ve made peace with Team A, I know that when I get to the next plot obstacle I’ll find Team B guarding it. But if I make peace with Team B? You guessed it. Team A plays the bad guys. That’s not really “C&C” in my mind. If the outcome is essentially the same, regardless of the decision I make, then you may as well not even give me a decision. Right?

Granted, I am not done with the Witcher. Not even close. Decisions I have already made could have drastic repercussions down the road. But this is how it seems so far. And I’m not expecting anything different in this respect down the road. (Though I am hopeful. I’ll update this if anything changes.)

“OK, Mr. Nitpicker,” I hear you saying. You’re telling me “it’s oh-so-easy to criticize,” so you “want to hear something constructive.” You “want some ideas.” You “want to know where C&C has worked.” First and foremost, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)! But that’s a game *built* around C&C. Haven’t played it? Want an example of C&C from the game? Don’t mind massive spoilers? Well, I’ll give you one major spoiler.

*major spoiler!* The opening scene of the game features you waking up at a crime scene and it’s pretty obvious you are the prime suspect. You have a few minutes to decide what to do. Do you clean up the blood? Hide the body? Wash up? Run out the back door? Return to your seat, casually pay your bill, and leave? There are so many ways to get through that scene. And then, later in the game, you play a detective who has to work with the evidence that *you the criminal* left behind. If you are one of those perfectionists who has to get everything just right, and you re-load one hundred times to make sure you had the perfectly-clean crime scene, you’re going to be cursing yourself later on. Brilliant! That’s C&C, at its best. *end major spoiler*

I’d love to see this kind of stuff more often in role-playing games. And I’d love to see it more thoughtfully implemented when it is used. But what do you think? Can it work? Have there been games to use it well? Other related thoughts? Fire ’em at me!

0 thoughts on “Designing a Better RPG – Choice & Consequence

  1. Yeah! I would definitely agree with that. I talk about Fahrenheit a lot because it did some things really well, but the storyline in that game just went from weird to weirder. And then by the second half it was lost in its own world. 🙂 That’s why I want to steal some of its features and put them in better games. :p Haha. 🙂

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