Continuing from my post on The Offer, I looked at Bethesda’s wonderful post-apocalyptic RPG, Fallout:New Vegas and their treatment of offers from the start of the game.
A game that flows well responds to the player’s actions which are motivated by what information the game ‘offers’ to the player. This is important in story-based games especially ones that are non-linear where the player can respond in different ways.
Below is the listing of the offers, responses and honors in Fallout’s first opening minutes. Offers are in PURPLE; a player’s response to the offer is prefaced with the offer they’re responding to (e.g., MURDERER is a player’s response to the offer of ‘Find out who tried to murder me’); RED indicates an offer that is not honored (i.e., the player’s action results in no new offer); GREEN indicates an offer that is honored (i.e., the player’s reaction to an offer leads to something else usually another offer).
There is a lot of information conveyed in the opening, but key items that I recall are:
- The game is set in post-apocalyptic Las Vegas
- A guy in a check suit executes me in a graveyard with a water tower nearby
- A doctor patches me up who tells me to find Victor who found me and Sunny at a Saloon
The opening then gives me offers that I can respond to:
- Find my MURDERER
- Find VICTOR
- Find SUNNY
As soon as I exit out of the doctor’s house, I get a great visual offer of a water tower in the distance on a hill. I respond to this offer by traveling to the water tower to find clues about my assailant. When I get there, I find a clue.
MURDERER: I find distinctive cigarette butts.
This is a weak offer as I am not sure what to do next but at least I am rewarded for investigating the execution scene and I have hopes that this clue will lead me to the man in the checkered suit. But I have 2 remaining offers of talking to Victor and Sunny.
En route to the saloon, I meet with Victor and talk to him.
VICTOR: While the honor of speaking with him is honored, it does not lead anywhere.
I go to the Saloon to talk to Sunny.
SUNNY: After she gives me a tutorial on shooting, she advises I talk to TRUDY in the saloon.
TRUDY: She tells me that the man in the checkered suit was with a group called the Khans and that they went north through Quarry Junction taking Route 93 to the Strip. This provides me with a new offer related to finding murderer, QUARRY.
And so the game continues with offers, responses and new offers.
So many times in story-based games, the next goal or means to achieve a goal is not well communicated. It’s even more frustrating when a player is not rewarded for following an offer. At times, offers may not lead anywhere as in the case of talking to Victor, but at least the player is given the option.