Mario Kart is cut-throat. There is no team. There is only you, the road, and that red shell flying at your face. In some cases, the road is also a rainbow.

A new trailer for Final Fantasy XIII-2 popped up at New York Comic Con, and though I missed the event, Joystiq was kind enough to embed said trailer in one of their articles. Beware if you still plan on playing the original Final Fantasy XIII. The contents of this very long trailer toss out spoilers to the ending of that game almost immediately. At over seven minutes long, it would be difficult to guide you around the spoilers. It does explain the basic premise of the sequel, complete with strange time traveling antics (which in turn explains the Paradox Shift feature from the playable E3 demo). It is a big improvement on the previous videos, which made vague and confusing statements as to the death of a character who is obviously alive. A bunch of new and returning characters are shown, including the apparent villain. It also features Hope in a tie, which I think is a big improvement on his character.

Discussions about games which let the players make choices that affect the plot,like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and most recently X-Men: Destiny, always remind me Choose Your Own Adventure books. In particular, I am reminded of this one book that I read long ago that involved a blizzard, an inn, and a couple of witches if I remember correctly. It was a really long time ago, but I seem to recall nearly every choice that did not cause you to follow the main plot would result in the near immediate death of the characters. I know for certain that you could freeze to death in the blizzard, get murdered by the witches, and for some reason wander into the gullet of some ancient dragon. I did not think I would find this book ever again, when I did a simple Google search for “Choose your own adventure inn”. And behold! It was the first result. Not only that, but Amazon has sellers providing it for only a penny plus 3.99 shipping. It is totally worth it.

I was approaching the point of this story. Oh yes. Games like Dragon Age are very similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books in more than one aspect. While they do allow the player to exercise some control over the destiny of their characters, the effects are severely limited. This is mostly due to the fact that it is difficult for a writer to spin a convincing narrative while allowing for multiple contingencies which may diverge too far from the main plot hook. Basically, it’s a pain to write two or three (or ten) stories when you only set out to write one.

Dungeon Masters in AD&D face this problem with a greater sense of urgency. Players may actively try to tear apart the driving plot of a campaign, by attacking an important character or wandering off towards some unrelated destination. As DM, you have to trick the players into following their intended story, or add encounters that push them on the right path. If worse comes to worse, you can always have a dragon come in and squash the offending player. When the player asks why it happened, you can just make something up, or say “Because it doesn’t like you!”. Maybe they’ll get the hint.