Design Focus: Rethinking Choices & Consequences + 50% of the goal reached!
First of all, I'm happy that we're half way there! We've just reached 50 % of our goal in just 9 days, with 19 days still to go. Thank you so much for your support.
And thank you for your great reactions in comments when I asked you what topics you’d like us to cover in updates. Describing how we innovate the fundamental choice & consequence mechanic ended up being the favorite.
So let's dive into what we do differently and let's start with the why: while we love many RPGs, from Fallout to Shadowrun Returns to The Witcher, we think RPGs usually have a pacing problem, where story and gameplay do not support each other, but fight each other.
Either the story is good and you want to flip to the next page, but you need to clear another level of monsters first. Or the combat is fun but you cannot wait to click through the dialogues.
What if the game worked differently?
What if gameplay and story supported each other?
Another issue narrative games have is that they present arbitrary challenges to compensate for the fact, that there is no challenge in clicking on dialogue options. So they use writing that misleads players, obscure the consequences and add time limits, or Quick Time Events.
What if the basic interaction with the story would be tactical? We could write better stories and our players could get satisfaction for succeeding in making a tough choice.
So I’ve just described 2 typical problems I see in RPGs: disconnect between the story and the combat and arbitrary challenges.
Sacred Fire is using a numeric personality model to connect story choices and combat actions and make them support each other:
In addition, we apply the following 4 principles in the design of choices and consequences to solve the two problems I identified above:
You have to earn the right to make a tough call
If a story choice you want to make is out-of-character for the personality you’ve developed, you need to pass a probability check. To boost your chances you can use willpower points.
As a reward, making a tough choice develops your personality and helps you level up.
Choices shape your character as much as actions
Story choices shape your character's personality and this way indirectly affect his ability to perform at the peak of his ability.
Furthermore inner monologue gives the player’s character the ability to interpret and comment on what’s happening in the story. What are your thoughts on failure, injustice, or brutality in a scene?
It’s your interpretation and motives that affect your character’s empathy, create guilt or strengthen your ideals. This all helps you to develop your character's willpower.
You always know the consequences of a choice
We never mislead the player into a wrong choice. Our goal is to create an experience where the player always has a smart option out of a tough spot. Notice a trap, sense an ambush, spot a hidden blade, make a leap of faith. You just need to have the will to make the extra effort to actually use it.
You have to earn the right to change the story
You do not start out as a leader. You have to compete for influence within the group of potential rivals or allies. NPCs don’t just get angry if they don’t agree with your choices. They have their own agendas and will try to undermine your choices.
We will also look into how these concepts innovate combat in one of our next updates.
Do you see other issues in RPGs that you’d like to see fixed? How would you fix them?
Check out Battle Princess Madelyn on Kickstarter
While this is not a narrative game, there is story behind it worth telling. When the creator's daughter Madelyn said "But daddy girls cannot be knights." he replied "Pfff, what color you want your armor?" It's one of the best things we can do for our kids, to take them seriously and show them we don't have to accept things in defeat, but can use our passion to shape our reality.