Games with the illusion of choice (Topic)

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Games with the illusion of choice


Selection in games. How much of this expression. Often, developers try to assure us that it is in their game that the very nonlinearity, ramification and often we become deceived as such by the illusion of choice in games. Today we will talk about games that only pretend that they are variable, but in reality they are linear.

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt

With the third Witcher, everything is not so simple. To begin with, it should be said that linearity manifests itself only in the main plot, when the same moral choice and dilemmas are more extended to side quests or only related to the main one. More, by the main quest we mean exactly the plot of the Wild Hunt, without taking into account the plot of "Hearts of Stone" and "Blood and Wine".

So what's the problem? In The Witcher, throughout the game, we make choices about Ciri, whether we support her or not. In fact, there are many scenarios for the development of events, depending on the situation, where you are required to correctly assess the state of affairs. Somewhere you have to give Ciri support by starting to play snowballs with her or smashing Avallach's laboratory, and somewhere letting her be an adult and letting her go to a meeting with the Lodge of Sorceresses. Alas, this does not fundamentally change the ending itself.


Every piece of art always has a climax. And it is the variability of the climax that tells whether there is non-linearity in the game or not. The plot of the Wild Hunt culminates in the moment when Ciri enters the portal to defeat the White Cold and this is what always remains unchanged. It doesn't matter how you treat her, she will do it, or you pause the game and never pass - the only way to change everything. Yes, your attitude towards Ciri will affect her future, because she may become a Monster Hunter, Queen of Nilfgaard, or never return after defeating the White Cold. But one way or another, she will enter the portal.


Although this can also be explained by the fact that such an end, where the world is not destroyed, was needed by the developers, because they were planning DLC. But already in them things are different, there you just influence the ending and the ending of the whole story of Geralt of Reeve. Again, we cannot say unequivocally, they say: "The Witcher is linear", we cannot, because freedom really is in this game.

Any Telltale Games Game

Oh, games from the late but recently resurrected Telltale Games. How much joy we experienced from the passage of the first season of The Walking Dead, completely forgetting that all the intensity and choice shown to us does not really affect the main plot. It's just that your path in the game from point A to point B can be different. And this is the main difference between a linear game and a project with the illusion of choice.

My favorite example is your very first choice when you have to choose: rescue Keny's little son or the son of the man who took you on the farm. The panic timer makes you act and do an almost instinctive act, but the essence will not change. By choosing Kenya's son, the farmer will kick you out for letting his son die. If you chose not him, the guy will die anyway, and the farmer will kick you out of despair.


The second choice is the same. By preventing walkers from attacking the store, you save either Doug or Carly, but both characters will die in the future without much of an impact on the story before. Of course, this choice of yours is reflected in some of the dialogues or the appearance of the characters and their relationship between each other. But globally - no. It's like the situation with Lee's hand, you either chop it off or not, but in the end you will still die.


It's a pity, but after the first season of Walkers, the studio did not even try and absolutely all of its games are linear, but we do not forget a ridiculous number of times to poke inscriptions like “Petya remembered it”, “Vasya did not like it” and so on. In their very first works, such as Back to the Future, they did not even hide it, but then it started.

Fallout 4

Fallout 4, as a story-driven game, is a reference example of how a quality franchise lends itself to itself. Almost all of your choice, and the relationship between the characters in the fourth part, boils down to one significant choice of the side for which you will fight in the final battle. And it's frustrating, especially if you've played the old-school early days.

For example, in the very first Fallout, you had several options for how to complete the game. You could complete the game by dealing with the army of the Creator in different ways, from the banal murder of the main villain to the use of deception. Also, you could cunningly blow up their headquarters without ever meeting. But you could both join the army of the Creator and together destroy the remnants of humanity. I'm not talking about the fact that throughout the game your actions were displayed on the cities of the wasteland and could lead to their heyday and to their complete decline.


And of course, how can you not mention the dialogues. I will never forget the madness like: "The girl waves her hand and greets you nicely"

Answer options:

  • Hello!
  • Tell me about this city?
  • Would you like to meet my little friend? [slowly begin stroking the handle of his pistol].

Why are they lying to us?

The question arises, why is nonlinearity so difficult to implement? In large AAA games, this approach can, on the contrary, ruin everything. To begin with, the game is already difficult to create, writing different scripts and inserting crutches into the code so that the game works correctly. The introduction of nonlinearity can exacerbate this nebulous process even more, because you, in fact, need to prescribe an action that the player may or may not do, and characters who may be dead or perhaps alive will participate in it. So it remains for us to feed on visual novels like Fate or Clannad, since often large games and the illusion of choice are an inseparable thing.

The Topic of Article: Games with the illusion of choice.
Author: Jake Pinkman