I’ve written before that I don’t enjoy complex min/maxing in my RPGs. They often result in the cookie cutter situation where your character will be horribly gimped if you don’t look up the optimal spec/ gear before deciding how to spec/ gear. We’ve also seen via WoW that if the player base believes this to be the case, then they will socially exclude anyone who doesn’t conform or doesn’t put out equivalent performance to the min/maxer.
So where does this leave players who do want to play socially with others but don’t enjoy minmaxing? It leaves them with a suboptimal gameplay that involves lots of looking stuff up.
I thought instead this morning I’d look at what sort of choices do lead to more fun gameplay, in my opinion. When I talk about choices in this context, I don’t mean the second by second choices a player would make during combat. I am talking about out of combat choice mechanics where there is no time pressure, such as choosing dialogue options, gear options, class/ spec options, and so on.
The main thing is that I’d like to either know in advance what the consequences of a choice are likely to be, or else have utter trust in the game not to stiff me (unless I already knew it was that type of game and restarting is easy.)
- Cosmetic choices. The choice you make is purely a preference that won’t affect gameplay. I like choosing what to eat on a menu when I go out to a restaurant and imagining what it will taste like, but the end result is (hopefully) eating a meal, whichever option is picked. I don’t need there to be an obvious bad option – it’s just as much fun to pick between lots of different awesome options.
- Choices that give me more control over gameplay, so that I can tailor it to my preferences. Choosing between which of my alts to play is a fun choice. Choosing whether to go a level deeper into Angband (increased risk) vs going back to the town level to sell up is a fun choice. Picking a class or which zone to go to next can be this type of choice, but again it doesn’t require there to be an obvious worse option. Choosing is more fun for me when there isn’t so I can just pick the option that I find more appealing.
- Choices that give me more control over narrative/ story. Choosing an origin in DAO is a fun choice. Choosing between renegade/ paragon options in Mass Effect can be fun too.
And here are some examples of choices that are not fun for me.
- My choice is irrelevant. It genuinely makes no difference in either short term or long term. (Note: There is a subtle difference between this and a cosmetic choice.)
- My choice is uninteresting. It may make a difference but I don’t care (at least not unless it’s a difference that makes an obvious difference in gameplay or looks).
- Traps! At least one of the options is going to screw my gameplay over in a major way, and this is particularly bad if I won’t find out until a lot later into the game. This turns the choice away from ‘pick your favourite’ and into ‘avoid picking the bad option’ – a subtle difference but one which adds into the selection process.