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I'm writing a script for a game story which starts with a bombing of a school. You spawn in a room at the second floor. You play as a child and his 2 best friends and you have 2 options:

  1. Hide in the bombing shelter with everyone else
  2. Risk your lives in an attempt to get out of the schools

I need a way to non-explicitly tell the player to choose one of these options. Rather than tell the user straight out with a message box, I would like the story to tell this to the player.

How I think I might do this:
1. Have an opening scene where the ncps talk with the main character (the main character and his best friends) and initially discus the 2 options.
2. Leave the user to figure this out by giving him/her some clues. This might be an open door to get out of the school [2] , all the other npcs moving to the bombing shelter, etc [1].
3. Give a hint in the loading menu / pause menu. Not the smartest idea, however...

Does anyone have any ideas how to reveal the 2 options without explicitly stating so? I'm free to any ideas.

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The opening scene would work well. In specific, you could stage a conversation about what school policy is during a bombing, and allude too the two options. For example, one NPC could say this:

Yeah, school policy is to go directly to the bomb shelter. But some of my friends say that they will just make a run for the door and try to get out.

You might want to adjust the wording so that the two options are presented perfectly, but this method seems to work well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice way of saying 1 thing while meaning the other. This is perfect. \$\endgroup\$ – RookieTEC9 Dec 7 '15 at 2:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just want to note, in this case you are still explicitly telling the player their options, but you are hiding the exposition in dialogue. Which is an effective way to do it, just be aware of what's happening here. \$\endgroup\$ – jhocking Jun 23 '17 at 16:32
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There are several layers to this. Give the player motivation, let them know it's possible, avoid mechanical confusions or distractions, and test and repeat.

I'd suggest providing some incentive to go outside. Create a risk / reward model. So maybe a window with something outside they can see and would want, or maybe a radio story overheard. But also some danger, if you want to build tension.

It'll also be important that players understand they can leave, from a functional / mechanics standpoint. So if you have doors, give them Windows so the player sees something on the other side. Maybe make your shelter have other doors that the player and npcs are using to move around inside the shelter.

If you have other exits keep this in mind. Usable exits versus just place setting. Yes, a shelter would normally have an air vent, but don't include it just for dressing if the player can't use it.

And get new players in to try it. You know the game, so any distractions you'll subconsciously ignore. Any confusion you won't see because you already know.

A good way to check this without watching players directly is to use heat maps. Track where players go, and see if there's a space they frequently go to. Maybe they expected an exit in the rear, and that the front door would be locked. Maybe one of your windows looks big enough to get out of. Look at where they first go, or where they go after you provide them a clue or some incentive to leave.

More so, you can add clues or details based on these behaviors. If half your players go searching for a back door, build the shelter in a loop that brings them right back to the front door.

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