Reportage from Fable 2 gives another example of putting story into the game design. Peter Molyneux says players will have the choice to either fight to the death, or fight to the pain (apologies to the Princess Bride). If players choose to fight instead of die, they won’t lose experience points, but the enemy’s ensuing blows will be written all over their faces for all to see. Now this might not seem like story to you, but in fact this is a great way to develop the player’s character through player choice.
The question arises, however, whether this design feature is compelling beyond a mere cosmetic choice. Molyneux had reservations: “What we’re wondering is whether vanity has enough potential to increase the drama of whether you win or lose a fight?” One way to increase the drama of this design is to more firmly intertwine it with the story of the game. Are those marred by fighting treated differently by NPCs? Are there times when looking scarred from battle may be an asset? Are you less likely to get the girl at the end? If most players feel compelled at least once to fight instead of die, are there quests that allow you to return to unscarred beauty? Going a step further, one of the themes of the game could be about inner vs. outer beauty. Your choice in battle may ultimately be a statement about where you stand in the age-old debate, which could recur in the game through beautiful villains or ugly angels. This feature would ultimately be as integral to the game as being able to turn back time in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
But all that’s conjecture. What say you?