A basic rule that I am always reminded of one way or another by other fellow writers when it comes to game writing has been the act of allowing the players to have their freedom when they pick and choose how they go about their gaming adventures. "Give the player choices!" What exactly does that mean? Let's understand the context. The player is the one who interacts with the product, a video game, and he or she expects to be entertained by the gaming experience.
What choices can you give the player? Well, before we answer that question we have to get familiar with what kind of game we want to make. We have to get acquainted with either a genre or a combination of genres that will make up our game. We have to know what the rules of the game are, and this is key because of the fact that although you will give the player the freedom to make choices, you don't want the player to rebel so much that he or she will just break most or all facets of your game.
The freedom of choice in a video game has many expressions. There are many ways to look at how we give the player to choose what it is he or she will be doing in the game. Choosing actions to take in a game make up an integral part of the core gaming experience. We are not interacting with this particular product to watch a movie. We would actually be watching a movie if that were the case. The more freedom a player has to interact with a video game, and more importantly, the more freedom a player has to express how he or she is as a gamer, then the more likely it will be for your game to become well known.
Concept - Medieval Quest of Rubies
Situation - Your Player Character enters an item shop. Your character is looking to buy some items that will best suit his or her needs. Your character can afford to buy some items but not all of them. Listed below are a list of items and the amount of golden coins your character has.
Bundle of Rope
Cornhole Game Kit
Player Character's Golden Coins - 150
Now let's look at the prices that are listed on these 7 items.
Bundle of Rope - 70 coins
Crowbar - 40
Dynamite Sticks - 70
Cornhole Game Kit - 20
Tape Recorder - 10
Loud Speaker - 10
Football - 10
The player keeps in mind that only 150 coins max can be spent on any of the items listed, and now here is where the element of choice kicks in as far as inventory goes. The player has to ask him/herself "Which items are more important to me at this time?" and "Which items will compliment my character's skills?" As you can tell, this imaginary game called Medieval Quest of Rubies has already developed a humorous tone revolving around more modern day items, but just this twist alone would allow the player to more freely imagine the world of this game instead of feeling isolated in just thinking of Medieval day themes.
"Which items are more important to me at this time?"
It's up to the player to decide that. There is no right or wrong answer (and shouldn't be) to what a player can obtain whenever he or she enters a shop to buy items. Depending on what's going on in the game world, the player can establish his or her focus on certain tasks that the player feels are worth taking on, and therefore certain items become higher priorities over others. This is especially the case if you are playing a nonlinear open world game. Let's go into specifics.
Specifics - (Example) "There is a huge boulder that is blocking my path to Fort Valiant and there is no other way for me to get around this huge thing. My good friends Sir Satchel and Lady Bella are throwing a joyous party and they want to provide entertainment. They tell me to be aware of a possible attack on the fort by the enemy, however."
Considering the specifics, the choices for the player to make become a little more clear, but still, the object is to let the player retain his or her freedom in choosing which items to buy. Developing a strategy, the player may decide to settle on these items.
Player Buys - Dynamite Sticks (70), Crowbar (40), Cornhole Game Kit (20), Loud Speaker (10), Football (10)
With this the player has bought 5 out of 7 available items with all the money that was available to the player. Now the player feels prepared to take on the challenges that lie ahead of him or her. However, let's take a step back and think about a different set of specifics.
Specifics - (Example) "The mischievous Sheriff Cannonsby will come to Fort Valiant later today. He will be looking for places to plunder from, so it's best that I stay close to his trail and expose him."
The player may now be convinced that he or she has to buy an item like the Tape Recorder for 10 golden coins because of this information. This situation is compelling enough for this player to think about buying the Tape Recorder, but at what other item's expense? It's up to the player how he or she will tackle the missions that are presented at various points of the game.
Finally, perhaps the player doesn't want to spend all 150 golden coins on 4 or 5 of the 7 items? That is another question that will eventually pop up in the player's mind. "Do I need to spend all of my coins right now? Why don't I hold on to like 20 or 30 coins and wait for something special to appear in my journey instead?" Along with giving the player choices, as game developers, we have to be able to allow the player to ask a wide variety of questions in the fun, imaginative sense. We have to allow the player to form strategies revolving around what the player wants to do with money, inventory, abilities, health items, etc.
The more choices a player has, the more time the player will take playing the game. It's a basic recipe for having a long lasting gaming experience.