Mechanic: Wrong move eventually makes secret right move

I was thinking of this mechanic for a computer game I’m writing, but its with certain roleplay goals in mind.

Okay, first of all its a bit like god of wars mini game kills – there’s a sequence of moves, remember them all and so far, so good.

Okay, on the final one (or maybe two), what I’m thinking of is that your not shown the correct move (out of a selection of four options, or some such number). Behind the scenes, one of the moves has 100% success rate, while all the others have a, say, 85% success rate.

So a player would be guessing the last move – but if it works, he doesn’t actually know if he got it right or if he chose an 85% one, but got lucky. And at 85%, it’s not hard to get lucky!

Further, as is often the case in RPG’s, these combats will happen more than a few times. If the player chooses the same last move as last time, and it was an 85% one, it actually increases its chance by 5%!!! (or perhaps 10%, I dunno yet)

This means not only does he not know whether he got the right one by the game, but also the one he chose starts to become the right answer. Indeed, it can go up to the full 100%! Becoming a perfectly correct answer!

Finally, I’m not sure when or if the true answer should ever be revealed? The gamist in me says yes – but for the full effect of this mechanic, it would at least have to be once there are two 100% results.  And perhaps even then, just show the two that are 100%, and the GM keeps a secret forever which one was the actual original answer!?

Tommi, if your reading, I’d like to hear your feelings on this. I think it might be something which is kind of in your area of preference. It might not be as well, but I’m curious about your evaluation?

Edit: And I’ve coded up a rough presentation of it – link

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7 Comments

  1. Tommi said,

    11 January, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Assuming a random computer game, my strategy would be to always, in the final phase, select the first option (unless they had actual meaning or there were hints about the correct one). After using it thrice, it is the correct one. So, game-wise, I don’t see the point of this system.

    Is there some other context I should take into account?

  2. Callan said,

    11 January, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    The moves would be described. You wouldn’t choose the one you like the sound of, atleast? If the first move seems a lamo one to you, would you still just choose it even if something else on the list seemed a more apt/cooler move? It’d seem equal effort to choose the one you like more, as to choose a lamo one. Why would you always choose the first option, even if its lamo, when there’s no more effort involved in choosing another option? It sounds kind of deliberately disruptive of your own fun.

    And if the correct one had been set by the designer and its description was supposed to grant a clue as to its correctness, would you still just choose the first option?

  3. Tommi said,

    12 January, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I have this nasty habit of largely ignoring colour/fluff in things I perceive as games. (I don’t perceive roleplaying games as games in this sense.) Certainly, if the descriptions of options were hitns as to the correct solution, I’d go with the one that I deemed most likely. If not, I’d probably just treat them as annoying and mostly pointless choice. A non-choice, if there is nothing to guess by.

    Always selecting the first one is just an arbitrary reaction to an arbitrary mechanic. It is null if there is some meaning in the choice. Further, the rule encourages sticking with a particular choice once it succeeds.

    Also, always picking the first option means there is less memorisation, which might or might not be a relevant issue. I have a good memory for meaningful things, poor one for arbitrary stuff.

  4. Callan said,

    13 January, 2009 at 12:21 am

    The fluff ignoring seems a bit deliberately disruptive? If in some board/computer game there were two options and I knew there was a 50% chance of either being right, it doesn’t matter which I choose, so I’d choose the one that sounds cool. It sounds like you’d just hit the first option and ignore whether it sounds cool or not, because it’s not an RPG? Am I right in thinking that?

    I’ll grant the first option/memorisation thing. Shuffling the positions of the choices each time, so you atleast have to remember which one was in position #1 rather than remember you pressed #1, might remove that little trick.

  5. Tommi said,

    13 January, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Not deliberately disruptive. The idea of considering the action I take based on fluff doesn’t even enter my headspace when gaming. It is just something I don’t do. I’m not certain about situations where there is some arbitrary choice to be made. Typical response is to just select something, but I don’t remember any high-fluff games with such situations that I have played in. (They are not good game design, anyway, generally speaking.)

    In case of shuffling, I’d develop some standard that I can use when making the choice so as to usually make the same choice again. This standard would depend on context; if some option was particularly nteworthy or memorably within the fiction, then I’d probably take that.

  6. Guy Shalev said,

    15 January, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Callan, I am amused, but in a way that is both good and sad, heh.

    This is the issue that is the issue in what I like to think of as CSI Games. If you are playing for the story, and the story alone, you would choose whatever you think fit.
    If you care for the game, and the game alone, then maybe the first time you’d pick the thing that calls out more to you, but once it succeeds, you will stick with that.

    A way to combat gamism, but it’s a bit manipulative would be to not tell the players how the decisions are reached till the game ends. They’d probably think it’s pre-written.

    Also, if I want a specific story-line/choice, and the answer is calculated on the spot, as having 85% success, and this is a story-game and not about combat, if my choice failed, I’d simply load before the choice and choose again. Until I succeed, and with 85%, the chances to lose twice are 2.25%, not that it matters since I have unlimited loads!

    Also, if something is story-based, I’d dislike these percentages. Sure, if I tell something to someone he can react in a different manner, but even if we say it’s non-deterministic, once the set of conditions has been finalized, we’d still want to give the person a choice, but then we wouldn’t think that if we returned to 5 seconds before, he’d then choose something different.
    Also, why do you have success so high? And not say, 40% and 55%? Because you want to tell the story of success, the story that will be more interesting in your eyes, and if so, what would it serve if a certain thing will make for an interesting story, should (85%…) make for an interesting story point, and a small fumble will make for what you think is a lesser story?

    – Here is a critical point that we can see in RPG design and absent from cRPGs: Your goal is to tell the more interesting story, if character failure will lead to the more interesting story, it is all swell (simplification, obviously). If the character’s loss would make for a really poor story, we’d just have them win, or eventually have them win.
    The terms of success and loss are in “Story Interest”, but here, the terms of success and loss are in “I got what I wanted” or “I didn’t”, and then, if you want the players to get what they want you’ll let them just win, and if you are going for the more interesting story, you will have certain choices lead to certain results, and note in advance to the players that some “character losses” should be seen as “Story win” and will lead to heightened interest in the future.

    To be honest, when I play RPGs on the computer I often save, so if a choice would have a nasty outcome I could roll-back. Most often, I do what I “feel” like and then roll back to see what the other choice would have given me, and then return to the choice I wanted to make. I also do these mechanical tests this way, like in Baldur’s Gate, attacking strong quest giver allies, just to see if I can do it, and what they carry on them 😉

    But to return to The Issue that’s what made me realize Cranium Rats as given didn’t work, because you couldn’t have the player both consider mechanics and do whatever fits him best, and whatever fits the story he wants best, not in a consistent manner.
    It isn’t disruptive when someone acts mechanically when you are telling a story, it is disruptive that you assume you can have both be fully meaningful without any clash. The design contains a disruption(contradiction? Not exactly, a clash) within itself.

    As to shuffling the positions, that’s just annoying. If the answers are given in a manner described well enough (full sentences) then the player would have to decipher which is which. And then shuffling or not is meaningless. If it’s basically the same, or you tell them which option is which, like Mass Effect having colours or say [Paragon], then don’t bother switching locations.

  7. Callan said,

    20 January, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Tommi; the user making up a standard is what I’m trying to get at, basically. So that’s good!

    Guy, alot of people have asked why 85% and not something around 50%. I suspect people have asked it, because 85% seems to have practically won already. But that is the very reason to choose it, because it’s practically won already. We are blurring the lines between winning and losing, and if it starts at 50% it wont be blurred much at all.

    That clash you describe, it can be a feature, not a bug. The creative mind doesn’t entirely get its own way (ie, what it might call being fully meaningful) and the gamist mind doesn’t entirely get its own way. Both are disrupted by the other. Why do this? Because real life is alot like this, both sides are in action and disrupting each other. By recreating this in the lab…*cough*, I mean roleplay session, we can examine an important element of life.

    And shuffling is important – I know Tommi would likely ignore the wording and simply remember the option numbers in a sequence, like “Hit 1, 3, 4, then 2” instead of roundhouse, uppercut, sweepkick, rapid punch. I’m pretty sure of that, from his described approach, that he’d eliminate the imaginative element if possible.

    Anyway, I’ve coded up just the memory sequence (no graphics, no glam, just the mechanics in action and text): http://www.yoyogames.com/games/show/67910


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