Ah this topic. The eternal debate with these sorts of things. Figured I might as well throw my hat into the ring on this because I’m a strong advocate for not having fetish-based failure states.
So, the problem I see with this whole thing actually has 0% to do with “flow,” I think terms like that tend to be buzz words that are rarely useful unless given a full explanation. My problem with fetish-based fail states is with the fact that these sorts of fail states are a fundamental mismatch of what the player wants, and what the game is. I hate to bash on Grimm here, because I really respect what he’s done for the community, but let’s use his game GUT as an example.
In that game, like most fetish games, it’s safe to say that the player wants to experience as much of the fetish content as possible. Any opportunity to see fats that the player is aware of will most likely be taken, since that’s what the player is there for, at least initially. Most of the game is fairly decent at this. Progress is rewarded with the side characters in the world becoming fatter overall, encouraging exploration and further progression. It’s simple and could be done better, but this is what you want generally.
However, with boss fights, it’s more often than not the exact opposite. A player is rewarded for not engaging with the combat mechanics and losing the battle. This is a strange mismatch of priorities, since the game mechanics act against this, but the player wants what’s behind that game over. As a result, in these situations, the player isn’t really playing your game anymore, and it calls into question why the bossfight is even there, since doing the “correct thing” according to the mechanics is counter to what the player wants.
Now, that said, there is a bad-end view room in the game you can go to see the bad ends for the previous encounters, which at least somewhat supports the idea that progress = more fetish material, since you can go there after you’ve beaten a boss to see the alt-scenario, but this is more of a band-aid than anything for people who don’t know that losing gives you more fetish scenes. It doesn’t add anything to the gameplay, and more often than not, a player will probably want to lose anyway even if they know about both because of the added context of the scene, faster feedback, ect.
Also, it’s worth noting that all this applies even if the scenario isn’t a “game over.” Weight gain traps and other things that go against the game’s core mechanics are basically the same thing to a lesser extent, and often cause ludonarritive dissonance.
So, that’s why these things aren’t good game design. Now, to be clear, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t like these things. I like GUT, and I like the bad ends, I play it all over again whenever there’s a new update, but I’d also like these games to be better and want to have to play the game when I do these things. When I’m getting these bad ends, I don’t feel like I’m playing the game anymore, I’m just menuing through stuff to see the fun scenes, even though the game’s supposed to be an RPG with exploration and combat.
And to put my money where my mouth is, I want to give some ideas for how to fix this sort of thing. This is a unique problem in a lot of fetish content, and I think it’s worth talking about solutions to the problem so that we can have better games on the site in the future.
All of these solutions assume 2 things:
- the character(s) getting fat are unwilling, since this is usually what makes the scenario a “bad end” or detriment to the character anyway.
- The game is fundamentally built around fetish content. Some games just put fetish stuff on the side, and that’s a whole different can of worms. Though, this is a fine assumption to make about pretty much all the games on this site.
Anyway, on to the solutions.
Make the game about exploring multiple endings. Many games have “bad ends,” but a lot of those games want you to experience those bad ends, because the game’s more about exploring the possibilities in the story rather than just getting the good ending. Visual novels do this a lot, and often lock the “good ending” content behind the “bad ends.” This makes the game more replayable (at least until you get all the endings) and adds variety. I’d recommend making the “good ends” have more fetish content than the “bad ends” just so that the player is rewarded for them more, but there’s a lot of wiggle room here.
Make the game from the enemy/feeder’s perspective. I’ve realized when coming up ideas for games that you can do a lot with playing as a villain with this fetish. Since most people generally don’t want to be big piles of fat, playing as the villain trying to impede a character’s progress is a great way to create unwilling WG scenarios and make the fetish more in the player’s control, since fattening the character is the player’s main objective in this case. It doesn’t even have to be a “villain.” Could be a hero trying to stop a villain by making them fatter. As long as there’s a conflict where one side wants the other fatter, you can make that work. Doesn’t even have to be the whole game, you can use this for a quest or something.
Make the player omniscient/detached. If the player is completely detached from the character being fattened, there’s a lot more room for creating gameplay that is bad for a character, but good for the player. Could be anything from playing as a computer system that’s fattening people, to just being a general sense of “fate.”
Make players have to work for “bad ends.” For those that want to be playing as the characters that get fatter, the simplest thing to do in these situations is to create “secret endings” rather than “bad endings.” GUT actually has something very close to this in the Candy Factory bad end where Lotta eats too many enemies, but it’s way too simple and easy for it to quite apply. Basically, you want to create a scenario where the player has to interact with the game mechanics to achieve a goal that gives them a “bad end” scenario as a reward. For example, you could change that GUT bad end so that you have to find a few special mini bosses that are only beaten through using the eating mechanics in interesting ways. Once you’ve gotten all of them, bam, secret ending. Of course, you still want to make it so that a player doesn’t get screwed over and lose progress, but that’s another conversation.
Unavoidable WG. If you want the player to gain weight through mechanics and not through optional content. Scenarios that force WG onto the player to progress are a great way to strong-arm this issue. Rather than making the choice about gaining weight or not gaining weight (because almost all players here will choose to gain weight), the choices could come as a result of what that weight does. For example, you could create a game where the farther the player gets, the more weight they gain, and the harder the game is until they reach the end and get a big payoff. Or choosing how the player gains weight could have different effects.
Anyway, Sorry for the massive essay on the subject. The point is, I think it’s worth thinking about these sorts of things to try and make the game’s around here better overall. I’m sure there are way more solutions to this problem than what I wrote down. This is just what I’ve happened to come up with over the last year or so.
Hope this helps / inspires someone.