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Choices in games should be deeper than good vs. evil, argues Obsidian co-founder

Choices in games should be deeper than good vs. evil, argues Obsidian co-founder

August 31, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

August 31, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon
More: Console/PC, Design

"It can’t just be do you shoot grandma or do you help her across the street."

- Feargus Urquhart explores how games can benefit from backing away from black and white decisions

From Fallout: New Vegas to Alpha Protocol, Obsidian has become well known for fleshing out its games with both major and minor impactful choices for players to make. Speaking to VG247, studio co-founder and CEO Feargus Urquhart shared some of the lessons he and his team have learned about crafting those decisions through the years.

For example, he notes that filling a game with smaller, contextual decisions can often be more rewarding than filling a world with black-and-white options that “complete nun or a complete psychopath” would choose.

“Hard choices are good, but they’re tiring,” he explains. “I think this is the other thing – so if you give players a hard choice that’s hard for anybody unless you’re a complete nun or a complete psychopath… those are great to have but they have to be used sparingly."

He suggests focusing on creating legitimate player choices grounded contextually in the game and quests, rather than swarming the player with a mountain of hard choices often leads to a more meaningful experience.

“It can be often too easy to make it about good and evil, right? So player choice needs to be legitimate and it needs to be about the player and not the designer,” says Urquhart. “I think that’s the biggest important thing. We’re at our best when we’re thinking about – okay, where is the player in the game? What do we feel that they’re thinking, what are they enjoying, and what are the type of players that they’re trying to be?”

For more from Urquhart and examples of how this philosophy manifests itself in Obsidian games like Alpha Protocol, be sure to check out the full interview over on VG247

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