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Where is the Consequence Part of Choice and Consequence?

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The concept of choice and consequence in RPGs has been really bugging me lately. For one I really don't think the concept means much since I make choices in video games constantly so what is it about RPGs that makes them different? While RPGs deliver on the choices front I have yet to feel any sort of consequence or impact from doing them. You know in Fallout 2 when the "consequence" of my choices means I have to choose between which clips of Ron Perlman I want to play for my ending slideshow I don't exactly feel the impact of my choices and thus they feeling meaningless to me. Each settlement I visited remained largely the same as it was from a mechanical standpoint. Now obviously this is an engine limitation but I can't help but feel like the concept of choice and consequence is being oversold here. The things I did in Fallout 2 that were sold to me as meaningful to me didn't feel like so whatsoever

 

Now there is an example of the type of choice and consequence I'm talking about and it's the bomb in Megaton from Fallout 3. While from a narrative justification for blowing up Megaton was rather simplistic the mechanics of it were impactful. What is the consequence of blowing up Megaton? Megaton is wiped from the face of this earth and instead of being a viable settlement with merchants you trade with now it is a large crater in the ground and there is not a single merchant in sight. You removed an aspect of gameplay and you felt it, to me that is a legitimate consequence. The overall execution of the bomb was just perfect. I guarantee you that if you blew up a nuke in Fallout 2 nothing would've happened. All you would get as your "consequence" is that you would get a clip of Ron perlman saying you blew up a nuke and that's it, Whoop de freaking do.

 

What matters more in terms of consequence? For me it's having a mechanical impact on the game world as opposed to a narrative one. It just feels right to me and I can easily forgive any flimsy narrative justification for making a choice if it means the consequence is impactful.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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You should check out Wasteland 2... The very first mission is choosing between food and water for the entire state, and it seriously affects the gameplay in many ways. (not all are noticeable, but many are)

 

Consequences for choices made in RPGs is one thing that has been sorely lacking in almost all RPGs, and I feel that it seriously pulls me out of immersion when there aren't any consequences or benefits for my actions. (like killing all the bandits across the entire Mojave in Fallout NV, and nothing changes)

bi ti ʤi ˈbulzaɪ

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You should check out Wasteland 2... The very first mission is choosing between food and water for the entire state, and it seriously affects the gameplay in many ways. (not all are noticeable, but many are)

 

Consequences for choices made in RPGs is one thing that has been sorely lacking in almost all RPGs, and I feel that it seriously pulls me out of immersion when there aren't any consequences or benefits for my actions. (like killing all the bandits across the entire Mojave in Fallout NV, and nothing changes)

 

This, I was very impressed with Wasteland 2's first tough choice.

 

Similar games I would recommend where you can feel effects of your choices are ones like Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 (it really feels like you're playing a balancing act as the Tyranids slowly become more and more powerful and the costs of your failures in any mission could cost you a lot, though admittedly the ending isn't that great.)

 

The Witcher Series has some amazing diversity in terms of how your choices affect your gameplay, opening and closing opportunities, interactions, items, characters, and quest lines as you go. Though again, arguably the endings are all let-downs since at least in games 1 and 2, the devs are forced to pick a canonical ending of the set they provide, and I'd argue even the endings they provide all could mostly be said to lead to the same final results. The third game has the best endings IMO, with three independently fleshed out epilogues that are each dynamically different on top of all your individual choices. The thing with most choices in the Witcher series do not take immediate effect, you have to wait and see how they play out, leaving you to guess at what happened until then as whether or not you made the right choice.

 

One small choice that had nothing to do with the story though that impressed me immensely was after I cleared most of the west coast and countryside of Velen of Bandits and Cannibals, not only did people return to those areas immediately, but I go back to a town and see that a poster has appeared on a tree calling for people to return to work in those places! It was a very small detail that is very easy to miss, but it was I still felt impressed out because I was like "Hey, I did that!"

 

The King Arthur RPG games are also pretty good at this, and The Banner Saga series when it comes to characters.

 

If you like contemplating this idea though, I also suggest playing The Stanley Parable.

Long is the way; and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light-Paradise Lost

By the power of truth, while I live, I have conquered the universe-Faust

The only absolute is that there are no absolutes, except that one

Vae Victus-Brennus

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One small choice that had nothing to do with the story though that impressed me immensely was after I cleared most of the west coast and countryside of Velen of Bandits and Cannibals, not only did people return to those areas immediately, but I go back to a town and see that a poster has appeared on a tree calling for people to return to work in those places! It was a very small detail that is very easy to miss, but it was I still felt impressed out because I was like "Hey, I did that!"

But that's exactly the same problem I stated in my OP. Little details while nice only allude consequence and never let you legitimately experience it. They're just set dressing. For example in Fallout 1 if you kill Killian for Gizmo over at Junktown you don't actually get to see Junktown evolve into the thriving boomtown that Ron Perlman alludes to in the ending. You just have to trust that what Ron Perlman is saying about what happened to Junktown to be true. It's all hearsay, you never get to legitimately experience any sort of consequence for your actions, it's disappointing.

 

I guess that's why character progression always felt more real to me than narrative progression (except for Planescape: Torment and Undertale). It's a given that how you build your character will implicitly impact your gameplay experience. When I was playing Deus Ex GOTY with the GMDX mod I was gritting my teeth when I had to choose between the combat strength augmentation and the combat speed augmentation. Both of them have very legitimate functions which made the decision all the more difficult when I had to choose one over the other and stick with it for the rest of the game. This is my frustration with narrative in most games. There is often no weight and no impact to your choices. In games like Fallout 1 & 2 you accept the illusion of consequence without experiencing it. To put it bluntly it's as if those kinds of choices don't have any balls.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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One small choice that had nothing to do with the story though that impressed me immensely was after I cleared most of the west coast and countryside of Velen of Bandits and Cannibals, not only did people return to those areas immediately, but I go back to a town and see that a poster has appeared on a tree calling for people to return to work in those places! It was a very small detail that is very easy to miss, but it was I still felt impressed out because I was like "Hey, I did that!"

But that's exactly the same problem I stated in my OP. Little details while nice only allude consequence and never let you legitimately experience it. They're just set dressing. For example in Fallout 1 if you kill Killian for Gizmo over at Junktown you don't actually get to see Junktown evolve into the thriving boomtown that Ron Perlman alludes to in the ending. You just have to trust that what Ron Perlman is saying about what happened to Junktown to be true. It's all hearsay, you never get to legitimately experience any sort of consequence for your actions, it's disappointing.

 

I guess that's why character progression always felt more real to me than narrative progression (except for Planescape: Torment and Undertale). It's a given that how you build your character will implicitly impact your gameplay experience. When I was playing Deus Ex GOTY with the GMDX mod I was gritting my teeth when I had to choose between the combat strength augmentation and the combat speed augmentation. Both of them have very legitimate functions which made the decision all the more difficult when I had to choose one over the other and stick with it for the rest of the game. This is my frustration with narrative in most games. There is often no weight and no impact to your choices. In games like Fallout 1 & 2 you accept the illusion of consequence without experiencing it. To put it bluntly it's as if those kinds of choices don't have any balls.

 

Well, let me clarify about the situation. You basically free several townships or workplaces and bring them back to life, and then you can run into the poster elsewhere. Its not like it just happens off-screen and you never see one or the other. The point I was making was I mostly surprised I saw it change elements beyond just the immediate vicinity. That was just one example as well, there's arguably far better ones in the DLC and at other points in the game.

 

I do have to agree with your take on Fallout 1, as I've yet to play 2. Classic though they are, they suck compared to some modern RPGs in terms of actually feeling the impact of your choices having more far-reaching consequences.

Long is the way; and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light-Paradise Lost

By the power of truth, while I live, I have conquered the universe-Faust

The only absolute is that there are no absolutes, except that one

Vae Victus-Brennus

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But if all you get is some poster you get to look at somewhere in the game, it really isn't affecting anything... It's an extremely minor visual acknowledgement that "yay, I did something that affects nothing". Which is why I suggested Wasteland 2, as most choices affect the economy, everyone's perception of you, and in some cases limit or expand your options for other interactions with others in the game. (and it feels more like a real consequence for your actions than "you get to see a poster")

bi ti ʤi ˈbulzaɪ

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It just occurred to me that the Mount & Blade series portrays consequence extremely well. Everything you do in M&B has a very clear cause and effect. Start a war with a faction? Well now you can't enter of any of that faction's towns without risking capture. Did you pillage a town? Well now it's economy is completely destroyed and likely won't be able to recover.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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Thats actually very interesting approach you take, one i havent seen much debated, at least not from that angle.

But main question here is wheter choice mechanic focuses on gameplay or, well, story.

In gameplay choices consequences are often more permanent, while story changes tend to be subtle & affecting characters.

See, lets be fair, your gameplay choices are simply way you play the game, you really dont care about them. But as for story, if you are anything like me & like to get invested in story, that changes a lot.

Now, in story choices there is very often the thing that ending is affected by one or two choices (Life is Strange (best writing i've seen in game, but has worst ending i've seen. Overall, best game), walking dead S2) or not at all (Walking dead S1), but people who critisise that miss the point story based games have. Most story based games are based on concept of journey and not showing immideate consequence of the choices you made until certain point where those choices started piling up, with choices you made becoming deciding factor in games like walking dead. And then those choices you made start making huge impact. And those are the moments that matter more than the ending in most story-based choices-matter game.

One of the best examples i can think of is in Life is Strange (but its huge spoiler regarding probably most emotional part of the game (though not by far last), so read at your own risk)

 

At end of episode 2, you see girl named Kate standing on top of the school, commiting suicide. Using rewind powers at their fullest, you get up there, when those powers fail. You then need to talk her off the ledge. While choices you made regarding her do matter, all they do is give you more options to choose from, but all in all you need to use your memory & logic to talk her down (want to save? too bad, not an option). First time game has EVER stopped me in my tracks and i had to think hard. I did manage to talk her down and it did feel like achievement

 

Overall, Life is Strange is actually very good in having consequences to its choices, as you even have consequence to the most minor of things. You also need to use memory a lot which adds to weight & immerses you more to the game. And really, most actions do have consequences! Again, horrible ending eliminates most of those, but up until that point, its fantastic (and trust me, poor ending does NOT damage the game at all)

Jack O'Neill: "You know Teal'c, if we dont find a way out of this soon, im gonna lose it. Lose it... it means go crazy. nuts. insane. bonzo. no longer in possession of ones faculties. 3 fries short of a happy meal. WACKO!!!!!!!!"

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In gameplay choices consequences are often more permanent, while story changes tend to be subtle & affecting characters.

See, lets be fair, your gameplay choices are simply way you play the game, you really dont care about them. But as for story, if you are anything like me & like to get invested in story, that changes a lot.

The main problem I have with narrative choices over gameplay ones is that due to the way narrative is structured it is often detached.Most narratives almost never manifest themselves in the game world so they don't feel real to me and thus it's hard for me to get invested/immersed in said narrative. Narrative could also be removed from a given title and have it not affect the game at all. I think it's a huge problem that narratives are still approached from the angle of literature and theatre because that's all game designers know. Narrative are either text based and feel like a book or full of cutscenes and feel like a play. Video games as a medium haven't found their own form of narrative yet. IMO this form must either interactive(like what I was talking about with the Mount & Blade series) or be interwoven with interactivity(Like Spec Ops: The Line or Undertale).

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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I disagree that video games havent found their own form of narrative yet- its there. The thing is, there is NO other medium with so vast diversity, so we simply cant talk about single form of narrative as we can when talking about movies or books or plays. FPS? minimal story or at least linear. open world game? story that makes sense but also gives you time. Walking sim? they are full of cutscenes. classic RTS? story at end of the mission (or some mid-point factor)

See my point? you try to press gaming as one huge bundle & try to find perfect form of narrative for it, while fact is that games are so large and diverse medium we simply have not seen before and it cannot have single "good form of narrative", but it has to have many, depending on game genre and what it wants to say.

I think good story for you would be Mass Effect 2- one of things i liked about it was that if you did certain mission it started invisible counter, where you would get to do certain ammount of submissions (far less than you'd need) you would simply be pushed to final mission. And your choices definetly mattered.

I do see your point of stories being detatched from main game (such as in GTA IV for example), but that problem has been disappearing very quickly.

 

Oh and you obviously mistake narrative with mechanics if you talk about m&b- seriously, that game has NO narrative, its sandbox. Raiding villages & thus making them poor is simply game mechanic- similar stuff can be found in total war for example or even Mafia 2 (rob a store & kill clerk, you wont get to use it, at least not in same chapter)

Jack O'Neill: "You know Teal'c, if we dont find a way out of this soon, im gonna lose it. Lose it... it means go crazy. nuts. insane. bonzo. no longer in possession of ones faculties. 3 fries short of a happy meal. WACKO!!!!!!!!"

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I do see your point of stories being detatched from main game (such as in GTA IV for example), but that problem has been disappearing very quickly.

It does seem like modern titles have less of this issue. I guess that comes with learning the medium as we go.

 

Oh and you obviously mistake narrative with mechanics if you talk about m&b- seriously, that game has NO narrative, its sandbox. Raiding villages & thus making them poor is simply game mechanic- similar stuff can be found in total war for example or even Mafia 2 (rob a store & kill clerk, you wont get to use it, at least not in same chapter)

I disagree entirely, M&B does have a narrative it's just constructed purely through play. It's narrative is dynamic as opposed to linear and yes I consider player driven actions to just as valid as any narrative justifications. In M&B roleplay and story are one in same and not at odds with each other like I've seen in so many games. Due to it's open and dynamic design ludonarrative dissonance cannot exist. It's physically impossible to have ludonarrative dissonance when the action and story are one in the same . We're so used to viewing media through this linear lens with a beginning, middle and end. Video games by virtue of their interactivity subvert this very notion. Sure the story ends when the player beats the game but it also ends when the player stops playing. The end result is always the same.

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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One thing I liked about the Mass Effect games was how choices you made in one game affected some things in the sequels. Made all the games feel like one larger story.

Completely agreed on that. Heck, those choices didnt affect even small things and not even little. For example, if you

 

lose Legion on mission vs Collectors (final mission of ME2), it will be impossible to keep both quarians & geth alive

 

 

I disagree entirely, M&B does have a narrative it's just constructed purely through play. It's narrative is dynamic as opposed to linear and yes I consider player driven actions to just as valid as any narrative justifications. In M&B roleplay and story are one in same and not at odds with each other like I've seen in so many games. Due to it's open and dynamic design ludonarrative dissonance cannot exist. It's physically impossible to have ludonarrative dissonance when the action and story are one in the same . We're so used to viewing media through this linear lens with a beginning, middle and end. Video games by virtue of their interactivity subvert this very notion. Sure the story ends when the player beats the game but it also ends when the player stops playing. The end result is always the same.

ok, please, go ahead. Do explain how its narrative in game with literally no story & all roleplay (and even that is more barebones). Sure, you can create your own nation, join as lord or even be simple bandit or mercenary, but please do explain actual stories & narratives you create there.

Because i could claim i get even more narrative in my current empire: total war campaign (see "last game you played" topic for details. Also, look up this topic, i think you find it interesting: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?314110-Most-unhistorical-thing-you-ve-done-or-seen-happen/page23).

Jack O'Neill: "You know Teal'c, if we dont find a way out of this soon, im gonna lose it. Lose it... it means go crazy. nuts. insane. bonzo. no longer in possession of ones faculties. 3 fries short of a happy meal. WACKO!!!!!!!!"

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ok, please, go ahead. Do explain how its narrative in game with literally no story & all roleplay (and even that is more barebones). Sure, you can create your own nation, join as lord or even be simple bandit or mercenary, but please do explain actual stories & narratives you create there.

Because i could claim i get even more narrative in my current empire: total war campaign (see "last game you played" topic for details. Also, look up this topic, i think you find it interesting: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?314110-Most-unhistorical-thing-you-ve-done-or-seen-happen/page23).

You've completely lost me as to what you're asking. You want me to you about the stories I've made in game? Alright sure.

 

One of my favorite stories to tell is how I conquered all of Calradia. My character started out as a bandit sacking villages. I accumulated a lot wealth and began spending it on mercenaries in a nearby town I snuck into since I pissed off the local lords from sacking villages earlier. I then began seeking out tournaments and began acquire renown that way. I pillaged as I went from tournament to tournament and pissed off all of the kingdoms. Once I got enough renown I began seeking out a claimant to help "clear". I eventually found one Prince Valdym the Bastard of the Kingdom of Vaegir and he agreed to take me in as one of his lords. Then I began seeking out possible defectors for our cause. I was extremely lucky as I got more than half of the lords from the original Kingdom of Vaegir and took it over rather easily. Afterwards I asked Prince Valdym to renounce my loyalty from him which he allowed since the Kingdom of Vaegir was his now. I proceeded to do the same thing over and over with all the other kingdoms. It was slow as hell but I eventually did it. By this point all the claimants had control over all the kingdoms and thanks to war the collective economy was dead. They would not be able to reinforce themselves easily and once the opportunity presented itself I took a castle from one of the claimants I helped. Thanks to my careful planning no one was strong enough to attack me and I was entrenched. I then got some defectors to swear their loyalty to me and once again I took over villages and towns like there was no tomorrow. Then finally I acquired the finally straggling town and beat the game effectively. Though in Mount and Blade there is no winning nor losing but I think you get my point. It was fucking insane and well worth the effort.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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Hopefully Bannerlord improves on some of those aspects. I mean, I loved Viking Conquest because they actually implemented a story into the campaign that you could play over and actually had very discernible effects on the game world.

Long is the way; and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light-Paradise Lost

By the power of truth, while I live, I have conquered the universe-Faust

The only absolute is that there are no absolutes, except that one

Vae Victus-Brennus

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Hopefully Bannerlord improves on some of those aspects. I mean, I loved Viking Conquest because they actually implemented a story into the campaign that you could play over and actually had very discernible effects on the game world.

Might I ask how exactly the story implemented is and does it interfere with roleplaying at all? My concern with narratives written by the developers is that they inherently go against the grain of roleplaying and/or player driven narrative. For instance While the developers' story might say the player is a hero since they can't actually figure out what kind of character the player is going to play as the story inherently becomes dissonant to their actions. There might be something that tries to tie in both story and the player's actions like say an alignment system but that still falls well within the confines of the developers' story which ultimately ends up restricting the player.

I'm not saying I started the fire. But I most certain poured gasoline on it.

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Hopefully Bannerlord improves on some of those aspects. I mean, I loved Viking Conquest because they actually implemented a story into the campaign that you could play over and actually had very discernible effects on the game world.

Might I ask how exactly the story implemented is and does it interfere with roleplaying at all? My concern with narratives written by the developers is that they inherently go against the grain of roleplaying and/or player driven narrative. For instance While the developers' story might say the player is a hero since they can't actually figure out what kind of character the player is going to play as the story inherently becomes dissonant to their actions. There might be something that tries to tie in both story and the player's actions like say an alignment system but that still falls well within the confines of the developers' story which ultimately ends up restricting the player.

 

The story implemented into Viking Conquest is partly a guide through the world and one that can enable you to have a meaningful impact on the actual world map (since you do go basically into freeroam mode after you finish the story). The story will basically take you to all corners of the map doing stuff, and they give you options to side with basically either the Christians or the Vikings. But there's a ton of other choices throughout that effect your honour, how various Story-only companions think of you, your party morale, and all kinds of other things in the moment.

 

I think they could and should have gone more in-depth on some stuff, like there is this one mission at the starting area that encourages you to try and assassinate the Frisian King on the order of a Jarl, but no matter what you do you can never do it and are always forced to move on after fucking up the plot as both the King and said Jarl end up hating you for different reasons. But this can arguably be forgiven since the story also shows you a lot of the mechanics of the mod and acts kinda as a tutorial area.

 

IMO, barring some instances where it does railroad you for the sake of moving the plot elsewhere, the game enables you to roleplay how you wish. At least in my playthrough, the game seems to favour you thinking and playing like a Viking, but I think it also depends on what your party is composed of (since there is a difference between Pagan and Christian Units and Characters, and I definitely favoured more Viking Characters) You just gotta be prepared to live with consequences and some tough fights (seriously some of the fights can be brutally difficult without much forewarning). You die in the story mode, its actually game over, no respawns so you gotta save often.

 

I will say that the ultimate ending kinda sucks, but the ultimate text-ending that describes what happens to your character and party members also has no bearing on your gameplay afterwards since you can just keep going. Some of your choices though do have major impacts on the map and various factions depending on which side you choose, and the stuff you gain through the story in most cases cannot be obtained or obtained as easily in the main game.

Long is the way; and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light-Paradise Lost

By the power of truth, while I live, I have conquered the universe-Faust

The only absolute is that there are no absolutes, except that one

Vae Victus-Brennus

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