Game Director David Cage is known for some rather innovative solutions in his games, especially when it comes to narrative, and in the PS3 exclusive Beyond: Two Souls he decided to get rid of the idea of giving players clear prompts when a choice is about to happen, as he described in an interview on the PlayStation Blogcast.
Dealing with actions and consequences I was really interested in seeing how choices could be implied in your actions. How the player could tell the story not through cutscenes, but directly through his actions and his choices. And how these choices could be something else than big flashing signs and “do you want to do this?” “Do you want to do that?” Rather something that you just have to just do what you feel is right, but actually you’re making choices, and these choices will have consequences that will change the course of the story.
One of the many examples we have in the game is that Jodie has a date. There’s a guy that she really likes coming to her apartment for the first time and she knows she has a hour to prepare for this. He’s coming in a hour for dinner.
As the player you can decide to do nothing and just watch TV and explore your apartment and do different things and just wear a very old T-shirt and your apartment is a mess and no meal is prepared. And that’s fine. When the guy will arrive at the door, he will feel a little bit uncomfortable. Nothing is really prepared and maybe you’re not really happy for him to be here and he may leave earlier and maybe the romance won’t happen.
But at the same time, if you decided to wear a sexy dress and to prepare a meal and to create a romantic atmosphere, to clean the apartment… just prepare something… maybe he’ll feel more comfortable. Maybe he’ll say, “ok, I’m glad I’m here.” Maybe he’ll engage in conversation. Maybe something will happen. Maybe or maybe not, because the choice is not binary. It’s not just going to happen or not happen. There are many paths in the story, many things, many ways it could happen.
But all these choices are not binary. It’s not do you want to do this or that, but it’s really like just play the scene and do what you think you want to do and see what happens. What is a little disturbing for some players is that some times they just play the scene and think “Ok, I had the scene as it was designed and it was very linear… I had no choices.” But in fact there were plenty of choices that they made as they played. And it was very funny during the user test sessions to hear people talking about their walkthroughs and saying “did you see this in the scene?” “Oh no I didn’t see it.” Because actually in the game you can see or miss entire parts of a scene just depending on how you play.
So no more visual prompts on the screen for us to stand there and think if we’re making the right choice or the wrong one. We’ll just have to play Jodie’s life and hope for the better, or the worse I guess, depending on what we like. Can’t say it’s not an interesting approach to interactive storytelling. We’ll definitely have to see how it’ll actually play out, but my curiosity is piqued.