Whoops, I clicked the wrong dialog option and did the opposite of what I intended to do, thus ruining everything. Better reload the game!
“Are you sure you wish to proceed? You will lose all unsaved progress.”
WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK THIS BEFORE I ACCIDENTALLY STARTED A WAR?
Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to give the user an “are you sure?” popup during a conversation. (Please no.) But this is a serious problem. In these kinds of games, you often have the player in situations like this:
- There’s a list of several options with very different outcomes.
- The outcomes are so drastically different (someone dies, something important is destroyed, a romance solidifies and becomes part of the story) that making the wrong choice is effectively a game over situation to the player.
- The player has just sat through several minutes of heavy exposition. Having the player reload after a botched fight is a minor annoyance, but making them repeat an important conversation can really break the flow and ruin the scene.
- There’s probably some reaction dialog after the player makes the big decision. If the player makes a mistake, they have to impatiently skip through this before they can even open a menu to re-load.
- The player is going to want to hurry through the conversation a second time, thus increasing the chances they will make more mistakes.
I know I’m always complaining about BioWare’s dialog wheel, but I have to admit this is one of those situations where the wheel helps. If “Rescue Puppy” is on top of the wheel and “Kill Puppy” is on the bottom, then there’s a lot less risk of an accidental mis-click compared to mouse-clicking on things in a straight list.
Sometimes you can give the player an in-universe confirmation by allowing them to say, “Wait! On second thought…”, so they have to make the choice twice. This can help, but it doesn’t work in all cases. In fact, the more important the decision, the more absurd this will look. Also, this costs more, since you need to write a loopback into the conversation.
I suppose auto-saving in the middle of a conversation would fix this, but no game ever does this. I get why that’s inconvenient for the programmers. I’d hate to have to write that, since it would greatly expand the complexity of the save system. On the other hand: Given all the other stupid crap developers throw money at, this seems like a small thing.
Sometimes you could make the choice by doing rather than talking. In Saints Row: The Three, there’s a decision you make by simply deciding where you take your vehicle. I’d say this is the best option by far, but it’s not always feasible and it might even be awkward. Here in KOTOR, the developer needs the choice to happen in dialog because they need to flip the combat flag for your foes, because you can’t initiate combat on non-hostile targets.
I put it to you: How would you solve this in a general sense?