Thursday, October 03, 2013

Paralyzed By In-Game Choices

I think we've all been there. You start a game you've just bought, and you are immediately presented with a lot of choices, and not knowing which ones are important, you either stumble through them or you stop and maybe look up what you should probably do.

Don't get me wrong, I like having some choices and options when I start a game, and I am sure most people do, but when there is too much choice, it makes starting a game a lot more difficult. It is like you have way too much of a good thing.

I will give you a recent example.

I recently bought the Wizardry Dark Savant Trilogy, a set of old RPGs that allow you to take your created characters from the first installment (VI) all the way through to the end of the last one. Interesting side note, they came out in 1990, 1992 and 2001 respectively, so as a series, it was ahead of its time.

Anyway, you have to make a party of 6 created characters from 11 races and, depending on your chosen gender and the initial roll you get for bonus points, up to 14 different classes. Now, that is a lot of choices to make at the beginning of the game.

It ends up being 686,339,028,913,329 different combinations.

Of course, that is further compounded by the fact that you can have your characters switch classes so they can pick up additional skills, and you sort of have to know that you are going to do that before you roll the character so you can put stats points into things so you can make that transition when the time is right. So you can't just wing it, you have to know what you want before you start.

Not to mention the fact that there is equipment that you get from starting with certain classes that you can't really find until later in the game, so you also feel pressure to include them as well. And this is really me scratching the surface of the kinds of decisions you have to make when starting these games.

Ultimately, it took me 6 days to figure out how I was going build that party.

To put that in perspective, I started Mass Effect the day I installed it with no real issues in terms of character creation. I made a few errors when I started playing Legend of Grimrock in terms of distributing skill points, but it ended up being no big deal and I had commended the game for having a simple 3 class/4 race system, and again, I started it the day I installed it. And Crusader Kings II/Europa Universalis etc have lots of playable nations, and a lot of starting dates, but again, it isn't that hard to start a game right wherever you choose.

So again, I've played a lot of games where I may have made a small error at the beginning or made a slightly less than optimal choice, and everything worked out fine in the end... like over time that poor early decision ended up becoming a mere bump on the road to greatness and didn't really affect the game as a whole. Wizardry is not that kind of game.If you make a mistake, it is going to punch you hard in the face.

There are other games where I've had that kind of experience at the beginning, which I may write about in the future, but thinking about this topic has made me wonder if anyone else has experienced this kind of thing.

So have any of you ever played a game that intimidated you from the beginning because there were too many decisions and choices at the start. 


Kristyn said...

While I've never played any of the games you're talking about, I actually feel this way when I go back to WoW. I played it in Vanilla (since 2005) and through several expansions, but the more casual I got, the harder time I had keeping up with the story and all that there is to do. Now, when I log on, I just sit in SW and wonder what I should be doing. Then I log out. I suppose you could say that rather than beating WoW, WoW has beat me. :)

Lee Sargent said...

When playing Mass Effect 3 I stuffed up some of the choices and wound up be romantically tied to Liara when I'm a confirmed Tali man.

It was so annoying and the game is so bloody massive to go back and replay it through (although I do still want to go back and do my evil Shepard run through).

But when I first played Mass Effect 2 I didn't really agonise over the decisions I played through very organically which I think added to the overall joy of the gam for me at least.