Friday, April 10, 2015

3. Make the Player Suffer!

10 Things You Should Know About:
Writing Interactive Fiction
3. Make the Player Suffer!
Offer Choices that Affect the Player
 -- not just the Story.

Everyone knows that selection; Making a Choice in an Interactive Fiction game, such as a Visual Novel, is supposed to affect the Story. However, choice selection also offers a fantastic opportunity to affect the Player, or more accurately; affect the Player's FEELINGS about their choice.

However, to do that one must first--

1. Keep the Player from figuring out where those Choices actually lead.

I said it before, but it bears repeating: Those who play Interactive Fiction also tend to read Novels. These Players are already familiar with how stories are structured so they know what a set-up looks like and they can smell a plot-twist coming almost a full chapter away.

What does this mean to You, the Creator?

It means that unless you do something to prevent your Players from figuring out where your Story is headed, they will know what you're up to. This is especially true when it comes time to make a Choice.

As a Creator, your job is to--

Play the Trickster and Think: Sneaky.

Make the Player think they know what the results of their selection will be through; misleading facts, misleading dialog, characters that omit or hide things, and characters that lie. Once the Player catches on to the fact that they don't actually know what's going on --that they are not fully informed-- then the Suffering begins!

"Won't that piss the Player off?"

Probably, but more importantly, it will make the Player Curious. "What's going on, really?"

Memorize this: 

Curious Players Won't Stop Playing
until their Curiosity is Satisfied

Seriously, as a creator, it is in your best interests --in your Game's best interests-- to Not Satisfy your Player's Curiosity until the bitter End.

This does not mean that you should hide relevant information! That WILL piss off your Players, and royally. You want to tease your Players by adding to the fun of figuring out what's really going on, not make it impossible to finish!

Instead, present all the clues they need to figure out what's really going on in a way that they can 'accidentally' misinterpret. This way, when they play your game again they'll notice all the clues you planted and say to themselves, "How did I miss that?"

Now that you got that straight, it's time to kick your Players where it hurts.

2. Choices that come with a COST 
-- to the Player

I am not talking about a Point Barter System; where it costs points from some stat or another to make a selection. That's just a storefront. I am talking about--

A conflict in which you have to choose between two or more actions and have moral, ethical, or even aesthetic reasons for choosing each action.

There are roughly three types of Dilemmas:

1. Moral Dilemma:  
A choice between something Morally Right that does not benefit you, and something Morally Wrong that does.
Example: A bank robber runs out of a bank, sees you, and tosses you a thick wad of cash to "Forget you saw me." Five minutes later, a cop runs up to you. "Did you see the culprit?"

Do you tell the cop and give up the wad of cash, or keep your mouth shut and keep the cash too? What if the cop is a friend of yours, but you really, really need the cash?

2. Ethical Dilemma:
A choice between allowing something catastrophically Wrong to happen, or taking action and letting something only terribly Wrong happen instead.
Example: There is a runaway train. Ahead of the train are five people tied up on the tracks. The train is headed straight for them. You stand next to a lever. If you pull this lever the train will switch tracks. However, someone is passed out across the track the train will divert to.

Do you let the train kill the five people on the main track and save the passed out guy, or pull the lever to divert the train and kill the passed out guy? What if the person passed out on the tracks is a close friend, and the people on the other track are family members you don't like?

3. Aesthetic Dilemma
A choice between stating the Truth, or Lying to make someone feel better.
Example: Your lover steps out of the changing room and asks, "Does this look good on me?" According to what you see, the outfit is not flattering at all. However, several people immediately come up and shower your lover with compliments.

Do you tell your lover that you don't find that outfit attractive on them, or agree with the others and compliment their appearance? What if your lover starts gushing about how much they always wanted to wear such an outfit, and it's in their favorite color? What if someone else walks up and starts ridiculing your lover for their choice in outfits?
So! Kick your Players where it really hurts and present them with more than a simple Choice, give them a good hard Dilemma. Remember: Suffering is Good for the Soul -- but more importantly, Entertaining!

Note: One of the most Machiavellian games to truly master the Moral Dilemma Choice is "Echo Bazaar," recently renamed "Fallen London." If you want the dirty details on exactly how they do it, check out their Story Nexus Wiki. It'll be eye-opening at the very least.

Ookami Kasumi

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