Playing UO has reminded me about the power of having to choose. Powerful choices aren’t always clear cut, and should weigh you down with thought before you make them. Choices aren’t penalties. They aren’t obstacles or annoyances, and they aren’t always between a good or bad thing.
Developers these days aren’t presenting players with meaningful choices. Instead, players are getting everything they want, and with it diminishing what could be a really enriching experience.
What if you only had one character and a limited number of skill points? You want to craft and hunt monsters, but you can’t do both. You want to have hide, but if you take hide you can’t take another ability that makes you more offensive. Do you risk bringing your horse with you if it can die? You’ll travel faster but risk losing him. Do you kill a player you see and gain his gear, or do you befriend him and gain a reputation of a friendly and trustworthy player. You have a choice.
Doors should closed to you when you make a decision, but the reward for making that choice should be enough to entice you to sacrifice what you could have had for going the other way. That’s the key. Both choices should bring rewards in their own way, and each should be distinct enough that choosing path means departing from the other entirely.
I want to be challenged with choices. I want to have to think before I act, and when I make a decision I want it to mean something. I want to be giving something up knowing that I’m gaining something special because I made that choice.