Boneeaters: Goals for impact of reader choices

My objective of giving the reader consequential choices is to shape the story.  The success of the (individualized) story itself will be if, reading it from start to finish, the flow is strong, impactful, and interesting.  Can each path lead to a story that is built in a way that the story stands alone and is entertaining and “realistic?”

Taking my last blog of very rough choices for early Vanishi background, what would be some possible paths and consequences of the choices?

Choice consequences from early ideas

  • Feed the Needy

Picking “confront” for the merchant could make the merchant very angry at Vanishi.  Maybe later in the story, Vanishi chooses to infiltrate the opposite faction, but the merchant sees her and reveals her ruse at just the wrong time?

Picking “eat” and having the merchant just comply wouldn’t make him as angry.  Maybe later in the story when Vanishi is forming her own network of “trusted” people she taps the merchant to move his station higher and he becomes a loyal soldier?

Picking “observe” would not garner any reaction from the merchant, so neither an enemy nor a loyalist.  Perhaps this path has Vanishi forming a much smaller/tighter network of “trusted” people as she is more inclined to trust nobody.

  • Pick Chapter 3

Although seemingly inconsequential, these decisions are pretty key to forming Vanishi’s experiences.  She wouldn’t even find the spy if not picking the Space Elevator.  Maybe picking the Shra Basecamp she learns how to move up in the Shra ranks faster?  Maybe Exit Stage Left impacts Vanishi’s options much later in the story as she is less confrontational and aggressive.

  • Dealing with the Spy

Obviously hugely impactful to the story is how Vanishi deals with the spy.  If she picks Traitor, she could end up in the Lamm family instead of the Shra family which would have huge consequences later in the story.  Maybe Lamm is far less brutal than Shra but more politically savvy?  So, if Vanishi were Shra maybe she is more inclined to be murderous while if in Lamm more inclined to plot a longer game of domination.

How to model using OCEAN?

Given my objectives and taking a look again at the OCEAN personality model, I am struck immediately with: my original idea is completely inadequate.  The reader’s choices in the above three options are far too specific to be measured only in some kind of point system for OCEAN. 

I have to know what she chooses in those options, not just which way she would be inclined to act later.  There is really no way to avoid maintaining a full “choice history” and using that for pathing out her story.

I think I can still tweak her OCEAN scores and am inclined to keep that in my design just for more subtle story adjustments.  Maybe in the scenario she is ruthless and a traitor, she gets some choice options that are particularly cruel and we scale those based on her OCEAN scores?  Feels like OCEAN may not be definitive, but could be interesting to add some depth.

I wonder a bit, though, if what I am discovering by digging in is that people’s choices and experiences are far more important for predicting behavior than their personality traits?  Regardless of what the truth is on determinism, perhaps personality traits are only a piece of the pie, and a lot more goes on. 

If someone is a huge introvert and anti-social but is presented with a scenario where being a little social would be massively beneficial, then they make a conscious decision to be social, they acted against their personality profile using judgment.  Aka, OCEAN is not definitive in the way “freakenomics” would suggest.  OCEAN is not motivation.

Add 600+ personality traits? O-M-G

However: is OCEAN descriptive enough? I may need to ponder “style” as another layer/factor here. In addition to OCEAN, should I have any of the over 600(!) personality traits like:

  • Brutal (or I’d say Ruthlessness); that doesn’t fit into OCEAN?
  • Deviousness; well… could that be derived from a low “Conscientiousness” score?
  • Brittle
  • Pretentious
  • Brilliant; that’s a good one – not even part of OCEAN is intelligence level

It seems I have some work to do in defining a “personality profile” after all…

Results of exploration so far

I will design multiple systems to track both the “choice history” and “personality profile” of each character that is tweaked by every reader’s decision in the game.  At this time, I think those two systems would be enough to realize my objectives. The challenge will be to make a personality profile system that hits the goal but is not overly complex.

-Andrew Zar