No Turning Back?

3rd November 2006

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3

Thinking about Poll Question 3 got me thinking how a game designer could control the consequences of a player’s choice. Specifically, when a player chooses a particular path what’s to stop them from saving just before the choice and then going back later and taking the other path?

This discussion assumes that it is a good thing for the designer to do. Now, I’m not advocating either way but I do feel that sometimes player’s have too much choice within games. I accept that this goes against what the industry as a whole is trying to do and that gamers want to have choices within games.

However, I feel that somebody should make a stand and say “This point in the game is crucial. Think about your choice carefully because you will NOT be able to change your mind (Just like in real life). Take you time, there’s no rush.”

A Possible Solution

I’m not a coder or hacker and I know that nearly all controls are eventually circumvented but it may be a start.

The player installs the game which assigns a random encrypted number to each level. When the player makes the choice the other path’s levels are deleted and new random encrypted numbers are assigned to the remaining levels. This means that even if the player has copied the other levels they cannot be played from this save.

What’s the Point?

To bring some hard choices into a game. Perhaps we are getting too relaxed about the actions within games and need something that says, the choice you make here is important be cause it has consequences that can’t be easily reversed. In this case the player could simply reinstall the game and play again but it would still make the player think twice.

Single Player Online Game

Perhaps this would work better if the game content was streamed just before the player played it. Of course at today’s download speeds that almost impossible but maybe not in the near future.

Other Ways To Make The Choices Really Matter?

Besides changing the outcome within the game does anybody have any other ways to make the player think carefully about their choices?


  1. AI

    This is an easy one for me, I have found out in REAL life, the choices you make do affect the outcome of your life!! I know this very well!! There is NO turning back! but in a PC game or whatever, you do or should have a choice of the outcome! When I play HL2 or any of the others I have, the choice is mine to save at a point and go back, to take another path! In my own opinion (just mine) that would affect my buying the game if I had no choice! I don’t play online, and I don’t feel I’m missing anything by not. Games are games and not real life (yet)!!

  2. buying the game if I had no choice!

    But you would have achoice. It’s just that you couldn’t change it!

    I know not everybody would want this element in a game, it’s just an idea.

    I don’t play online, and I don’t feel I’m missing anything by not.

    Neither do I but if they made an online SP game then I might. An online SP game means everything except the level you are playing and the next level are stored on a server.

    Games are games and not real life (yet)!!

    I accept that but all I was trying to do was add something new to game. IF I played a game with that feature I might hate it and never buy another game with that features, so it’s really only hypothetical.

  3. AI

    Then I must ask you, what would be the point of having a choice, if you couldn’t change it at that instant?? I look for the games that I don’t have to mess with online! I admit I do like HL2, I don’t like the Steam control, but when I found I could play offline, then it was a sale!! The point of having the data on a server — no thanks!! I’d rather have it on my PC instead! Then I have control of the data!! But that’s just my thoughts

  4. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    Quite tired, but I’ll try to explain what I can; I think the idea would be more suitable in tactical games, or something very or somewhat serious. However, I don’t think the player should be forced to miss out of the other route since a lot of people probably play games to ESCAPE reality, and prefer it not to be in their games. In this case, it’s leaning more towards realistic gameplay.

  5. Then I must ask you, what would be the point of having a choice, if you couldn’t change it at that instant??

    Well, maybe there could be a “grace” period, perhaps five minutes. I know this sounds like a backward step regarding game mechanics (And I admit it could be!) but I wanted to add some lelement of reality into the games. Personally I hate reality and avoid it as much as possible (Seriously). But I just feel that if the game allows us to do anything anytime then it’s missing something.

    The point about the online game was made to suggest a way that the idea would work in practice.

    Choices we make, even within games, have some consequences. MAybe we have to go back and play a game with different weapons because the first time we didn’t find a particular weapon.

    But where do the choices stop. If you choose to kill the female guard in Blue Shift or a mod (Sorry I can’t remmeber which), we don’t complain but the game ends. We accept it because it’s part of the gameplay. If you want to finish the mod/game then you have to stay within the “rules”. This could be another “rule”.

    Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that you know in advance about the choice?

  6. dougjp

    In RTCW a screen comes up between segments, showing accomplishments. Moving forward eliminates going back (unless of course you exit and load a previous save). That gave the choice without time limit. I kind of liked that approach.

    Otherwise, I like the opposite of “rules” – lots of choice – open maps where you can wander and take numerous routes, solving things in different and combined ways.

    Some mappers have used things like kill helis to restrict a player’s route, however that tends to only aggravate the gamer. Sometimes a mapper will be more subtle and have a different difficulty, more enemies for example, when going one way compared to the other. Like the power of suggestion rather than forcing a move. When done right, that is a very good approach.

  7. AI

    To #6 I almost forgot about that message, I have RTCW on my machine among others, that give you the opportunity to go back and see what you missed! Thanks for the reminder! Another game that has a simular feature, and this is pushing time, is the original Doom,
    (oooh I love it!!!) except that ya can’t go back at map change! I don’t map/mod but maybe that would be to much to add?

  8. I have to disagree: I think being able to save before making a choice should be allowed. Far Cry is kinda like that, where you can’t save before you move into a difficult section, and that alone makes the game notoriously hard to play; at some point, frustration sets in, and the player gives up on the game altogether.

    If you want to look at it this way, think of the game as a training scnario, which allows you to explore the gamut of choices to discover which one works best, for the game and for yourself.

  9. If you want to look at it this way, think of the game as a training scnario, which allows you to explore the gamut of choices to discover which one works best, for the game and for yourself.

    I understand your point and was not suggesting that this be appiled to every game or even every situation.

    Even training scenarios occassioanly include choices that can not be changed. If they didn’t you would be conditioning people to expect that choices in real life can be changed. We both know that that is not always the case.

    In these cases you would be training the player to consider all options very carefully before deciding. At the moment every decision has no consequence because you can simply restart from a previous save.

  10. Leaving both routes re-traceable, go into the complex for instance on a killing spree, get your cool weapons, then back track, probably having to shoot your way back out, then take the other fork in the road.
    That would ad hours to it all. For some one like me who is pretty much bed ridden?.. In my own opinion..both should be as I spoke of.. This would probably attract more players to that game,map pack or mod as well. What if’s are infinite. Tunnels, vents, corridors that lead to the other route and back, re-spawning health,ammo, and chargers…. ( a mappers nightmare lol)… A $ellable point to be sure. It would make you (the player) like trying to hand catch a rat at the junkyard for the enemies..ESPECIALLY in co-op & multiplayer versions

    It would be a sale point to me, you know what they say..If there is one there is two, if there is two there are four and it goes on and on exponentially…

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