Share this project


Share this project

Develop your inner strength in a tactical choice-driven RPG inspired by Caledonia, featuring Doug Cockle, the voice of the Witcher.
Develop your inner strength in a tactical choice-driven RPG inspired by Caledonia, featuring Doug Cockle, the voice of the Witcher.
Created by
1,435 backers pledged $65,000 to help bring this project to life.

Update #21: Design Focus: Are probabilities ruining role-playing experience?

Posted by Poetic (Creator)

Hello everyone,

We’ve got a great question from Kamen42 in the comments section of our Kickstarter. He was rewatching Sacred Fire trailers and had an intriguing idea: wouldn’t it be more fun if we hide the success probabilities of choices in Sacred Fire? And the idea seemed so interesting, that Andrej wrote an insightful answer that deserves a full-blown Design Focus update.

If you’d like to refresh how probabilities work in Sacred Fire, you can watch our developers commentary at .


First, here’s the question from Kamen42. It’s a shortened version of his original comments. And below it is Andrej’s take on it.

Kamen42: With each action there are percentages of success. I was wondering if there will be a mode where these percentages are not visible. I think it would be really interesting to play without knowing what chance of success your actions have.

When players have several options how to act, they usually have one that they like the most. However, when they see the chances of success, they might be discouraged and end up doing something else.

I caught myself doing this several times when playing games like Torment. After that I sometimes had a feeling that I don't play the game, that I am merely doing what the game suggests I should do.

Sure, turning the percentages off would definitely lead to making some bad decisions, some that are doomed to fail, but that way the story is entirely in the player's hands. We would be the ones making the decisions. And if we fail, at least we fail doing something we believed.


So are probabilities ruining role-playing experience?

Andrej: Kamen42, it's great to see people care so much for Sacred Fire to be the best possible role-playing experience. I appreciate the effort you put into explaining your question.

I had a similar experience to what you describe in a couple of RPGs. You are right to be concerned about it, as it ruins the role-playing experience in my opinion too.

We have spent a lot of time on identifying how to solve this. And we will spend more time testing and listening to your feedback. Your solution is one of several, but it's too early to say, yes, we will do it this way. Let's wait and see how the game plays and then we can make the right call.

I think there are many factors in the issue you describe: UI design, game rules, and the actual writing:
- What are the choices? How different are they? Is one clearly 'right'?
- What are the consequences of a failure?
- Do you get to retry a failed choice?

For example, in Sacred Fire especially early in the game, when you haven't built up your inner strength and influence in the society, you struggle to speak up. If you fail, no one knows but you, right? No one notices.

The game lets you try as many times as you like. You just get more frustrated (Anger+) or scared (Fear+) with every try, based on your personality and the circumstances: what’s at stake in the situation. And your emotions change the odds, anger will help you speak up, fear won’t.

There is something satisfying about having a choice you know is hard and likely to fail and still staying true to yourself and passing it. Especially if it costs you something rare or limited: your willpower points or a few seconds of your time. And once you do this, it strengthens your inner power in-game, so you are rewarded for taking the less likely choice.

That being said, playing to your strong sides builds positive memories and confidence, so the game doesn't reward you just for hard choices. But too much confidence strengthens both your pride and aversion others feel toward you and you will have to deal with new interesting challenges.

This way, the player will gradually un-learn to play by probability and learn from experience with the game. You are free to choose and know the game will reward and test you and make the consequences interesting. This way you are free to role-play.

Furthermore, in Sacred Fire it’s YOU who determines what your character is most likely to do in the given situation. So, it's not the game telling you what to do. The game is reacting to your character creation, tracks your choices and provides consistency to your role-playing exactly through the probability.

It may happen that our system is so well balanced after time, that you won't need the probability to be displayed, just say this is a risky choice, out of your character, out of your skill set. But as I said, it's too early to say.

Also, if you really like a choice and it has low chances of success, in Sacred Fire you just have to pay for it with your limited willpower resource, which means you really believe in this choice.

Also, as far as reality goes, in most situations, you pretty much know what your chances are, because probability is nothing else than how many times I have to try before I get it right. Or in other words, I know from experience that I have tried ten times to reason right off the bat with my neighbor when he complained about noise and it never worked. So I know that my chances to work this out when he shows up or when I speak to someone else complaining, are better if I let them vent first.

As far as physical action goes, I think the same applies. For example, I’ve played recreational soccer all my life. I don’t think I’m special and still in a match in the heat of the battle I can make split seconds decision based on the thousands of experiences I had trying something and failing or trying something and succeeding. That’s just how our brains and muscle memory works, how an activity becomes second nature to us after time. I know at what distance and angle my shot is likely to score, and when it's better to pass the ball.

I imagine an ancient warrior in Caledonia has spent much more time shooting bow, than a modern man playing soccer. And the other players (or warriors) know the odds too, so if you score from an impossible angle, or hit a fast-moving target with your arrow, it’s going to create respect and renown for you.

This way in Sacred Fire you are motivated by winning to take the easy shot and you are motivated by prestige to take the hard one. It's all about WHO you want to be, or even better, it's about understanding a little bit better, through role-playing, who you, the real you, are.

I'm happy people share our passion for creating role-playing that is immersive and becomes your self-expression. This is what Sacred Fire is all about.

PS. We’ve got a new way of supporting the development of Sacred Fire. In addition to upgrading your Kickstarter pledge via Paypal and late-backing on Indiegogo (tell you friends), you can also donate with Paypal. All funds raised through crowdfunding and donations will go directly towards making Sacred Fire the best it can be. We will add more polish, voiceover and improvements to the core gameplay.

Thomas Shey, Sverker, and 14 more people like this update.


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Poetic Creator on

      @Alexander Karpychev: Thank you for your feedback. All these UI options are fairly easy to implement in Unity. Cheers.

    2. Poetic Creator on

      @ Jimmy Jones: Sorry for the delay, we've been at a startup competition and managed to get into the finals, yay :) Thank you for your in-depth comment, those are some great observations. We will definitely experiment with the UI implementations: numbers, words, and colors. It makes also sense to let the user choose, as we all process information differently. You are spot on, I also consider the tooltips giving you insight what affects what, as very important.

    3. Alexander Karpychev on

      For munchkins and power-players like me it would be bad to remove numbers - I want to see how mechanics work. That's the only connection I have with this imaginative world when it comes to interaction.That's a good idea about hiding under words for chances. Or if it isn't hard for you to code - option to hide it completely. That's for those who love going blindly.

    4. Jimmy Jones on

      I can definitely see where Kamen42 is coming from but your mechanic is more like an "Accuracy" stat in an RPG. You have may have a 60% chance to hit (success), you may increase your chance by spending willpower, you may still fail. It'sa risk vs reward decision.

      The chance to intervene and succeed may be little and it would seem the smart option is to always retreat and call for help but maybe with a little willpower and luck, you could succeed and that might be the better outcome in the long term. Maybe that child will have seen you leave and you lose respect but the others gain respect and that decision will bite you in the ass as she sides with the ones who came to her aid.

      I think what you have to be careful of is giving us percentages that are too low that it seems impossible. I think if one option is 90% and the other is 5%, no one will choose the 5% even if willpower can increase it to 10%. For anyone to consider a low percentage chance, the outcome has to be extremely rewarding (lottery winner).

      From reading the comments below, it may not be bad idea to hide numbers and use words as a suggestion for what range you sit in. Risky, Unlikely, Possible, Easy, etc. You could even colour it from a Red to Green scale.

      We definitely need to see how our stats can affect the outcomes. Maybe hovering over shows what skills or strengths/weakness play a part in the outcome.

    5. Poetic Creator on

      @WintermuteX Thank you for reaching out and for your feedback. We are looking forward to insights from you guys on the Private Early Access version. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are getting there.

    6. Poetic Creator on

      @Kamen42 Thank you, this really is a key design principle affecting the role-playing, so we give it a lot of attention. Cheers :)

    7. Poetic Creator on

      @Edhel Hey, you are spot on, thank you for providing a well thought out example. Yes, that's the point, failures in Sacred Fire can be as interesting and spectacular as successes.

      Failures rarely result in your death, and very often trigger interesting relationship dynamics, or raise stakes, making the already dramatic situation even more loaded.

    8. Poetic Creator on

      @Justin Thanks for your comment, your observation is spot on, that what makes the challenges fun and relevant is that they are not just gates, but branches. And thank you for upping your pledge, it's much appreciated :)

    9. Missing avatar

      WintermuteX on

      Sometimes I want to know my chances, sometimes I don't. I would like an option to hide or show the percentage. I would guess this will keep every crowd happy ...

    10. Justin

      You know I've been thinking about and rereading the update that Kamen24s question spawned and I think it's time I upped my pledge level :)

    11. Kamen42 on

      Such a great update. Thank you. When I was writing my comment, I never expected it would have such an impact :D
      I only realized one thing that might not be clear from my original comments. I wouldn't want you to turn off the percentages in the entire game. I would like this to be an added option, so the players can choose which way suits them more. I know I would play the game both ways.
      But reading this update made me think that your original concept (with the numbers visible and the way the player can influence them) will work a lot better than in other games :)

    12. Missing avatar

      Edhel on

      From one point of view, I would rather not have the percentages shown in an rpg game, just so the numbers don't distract me. All I would need to see is how difficult (easy, moderate, impossible...) the challenge is - like Tirion suggests - and how good at the given skill or personailty trait I am. After few moments of playing I will know that with cunning 10, I usually win "moderate" challenges but only rarely the "difficult" ones.

      On the other hand, I wouldn't worry too much about percentages in Sacred fire - or at least if my understanging how the game is going to work is correct. Let's say I will play in bold, rush and "aggresive" way and naturaly I get getter in that. When I get into a fight or conversation when this approach work (people around want the brave leader who acts and instead of using too much words), my chance will get higher and I will naturaly select that option because that's my current play-style. And when I meet and need to persuade somebody who naturaly shy, scared and requires more compassoin, I expect the "compassionate" choice would be the prefered one (highest percentage, by this person) and the "aggresive" choice the least favourite (lowest percentage). However, as I spent all my "skill points" in being bold and not a single point compassion, both those options are going to have pretty low chances. And in situation like that, I go for roleplay and make a bold idiot from myself and hope for at least some interesting failure. After all, it is "just" a game - a safe environment to test possible outcomes in perhaps impossible scenarios.
      Please, tell me the game will be that smart:)

    13. Justin

      (follow up comment since KS doesn't allow edits)
      I'm really enthusiastic and encouraged by the direction the project is going with this, specifically that challenges are 'branches' not just 'gates'.
      I've played quite a few games that treat how you respond to a situation as largely irrelevant so long as you 'resolve' it somehow, leaving the outcome of persuading someone, threatening them, and bribing them (sometimes even killing them as well) the same or virtually the same.

      Not only is Sacred Fire providing a context where choices matter from the perspective of how a situation is responded to, but also effects based on how much/little you're playing to your (developed) strengths as well? Lovely :)

    14. Martin // Sacred Fire RPG Collaborator on

      @Justin Thanks a lot for the comment and for your enthusiasm. We have to thank Kamen42 for the great question. It provoked Andrej to write this exciting update. So keep the great questions coming everyone. We're grateful for such a passionate community.

    15. Martin // Sacred Fire RPG Collaborator on

      @Tirion Thank you for the suggestion. Yes, this a very good potential solution that we've also discussed internally. It's rather realistic - it does give you some knowledge of the likelihood of success but doesn't give you exact percentage. Thanks again for your insight.

    16. Justin

      I loved this update, it's made me even more excited to play Sacred Fire once it's finished :)

    17. Martin // Sacred Fire RPG Collaborator on

      @Miranda Starmz Thank you very much for the encouragement. It's great to see that people appreciate that role-playing is at the center of our efforts.

    18. Martin // Sacred Fire RPG Collaborator on

      @Balgin Stondraeg Thank you, this is a great discussion! And thanks for the suggestion with the menu option.

      One thing that seems to be missing from the equation is the potential benefit from a choice. There's always something I gain when making a choice and I need to consider this together with the probability. The benefit a choice yields is something that decreases the danger that I'll only make the highest probability choices. For example, my character is hot-headed and is in an intense argument, which is escalating quickly. But I need to persuade the other side to join me in my efforts. There are 3 choices: Slap the opponent's face (intimidate) [90%]; Shout at them [70%]; Calm down and listed to what they say [30%]. Clearly, the first choice has the highest probability. But would you choose it just because of the high probability? You'll consider the possible consequences in addition to the probabilities. The consequences are not the same and the story will turn our differently depending on what I do.

      But I'll ask Andrej to comment as well if he has something to add.

    19. Tirion,Haberdasher of the Obsidian Order on

      A thought on an intermediate way. Break up the chance into 5 'how likely' categories. From most likely not to very likely or some other such wording. The breakdown being 1-15%,16-35%,36-65%,66-85%,86-100%. I think this embodies what Thomas is talking about while still adding in a touch of the unknown/misreading

    20. Martin // Sacred Fire RPG Collaborator on

      @Thomas Shey Thank you for the insightful comment. I think I understand Kamen42's concern that he doesn't want to become slave to the numbers. But at the same time, Andrej explained really well (and confirms your insight as well) that in real life, we have at least some knowledge of our chances most of the time. There are several approaches how to solve this in-game. So we'll test what approach works best and offers the kind of player experience we want to achieve. Our community will be an important part of this.

    21. Miranda Starmz on

      This is such a promising update; I love the heavy roleplay focus of this project. Keep up the great work!

    22. Balgin Stondraeg

      I can appreciate both options to be honest. By showing the percentages you're skewing the player's perspective. A certain kind of player would be tempted to always pick the highest chances regardless of how schizophrenic their character became and how disjointed it made the story.

      Another kind of player would be sticking with their heart then see a very low percentage and feel betrayed. They may see a tiny chance of success and question whether they are playing the wrong character for this tale. They might ask if they are prepared to walk the path of hardship and woe and if such a tragic tale may yet be rewarding.

      In the end many other players might feel uninformed. They desire more information on display to better understand what is going on. In all fairness I think a simple menu option to hide percentages might be the simplest solution.

    23. Thomas Shey

      I also think blind decision-making suffers from the fact it swings things too much the other way; while I may not know exactly how likely something is to work in real life, neither am I completely in the dark; I can make some assessment about things like body language and tone in social situations, and if I'm in a martial arts competition, judge whether the opponent seems to favor one side or is better than me. Blind decisions don't account for that, and as such I think are at least as bad as anything listing chances of success do.