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BusterWilde

Moral choices in games

It's not that the idea of a moral choice system is bad. It's actually very good. But only if it's developed properly. Most games give you a black and white choice periodically that has no real impact on how the game progresses. It just alters an invisible stat. Some games do go a bit beyond this and make it impact the way NPCs interact with you, which is fine, but is really selling the system short.

First of all, morality isn't straight black and white. But games never any gray options, or the opportunity to make a good choice for the wrong reasons, or vice versa. What if the player only saved those orphans for the reward money and the chance to kill people? What if the player mercilessly slaughtered an entire group of people, fathers, mothers, teachers, etc., because they discovered said group was secretly a corrupting influence?

Second, like I mentioned, moral choices rarely ever actually affect game progression. Consider KotOR as an example. In the first game, any and all moral choices you make up until a certain point are completely irrelevant, and the one choice that does affect the ending can be reversed with ANOTHER decision a little later. It's still a very good game, but the morality system is utterly pointless. (This isn't ENTIRELY true. One evil decision on Manaan can get you banned from the planet, but it's still pointless if you finished everything beforehand).

If game developers would expand on the concept of moral choices, it could actually be pretty good.
Viewed: 21 times
Added: 5 years, 3 months ago
 
Claws61821
5 years, 3 months ago
I actually thought about doing something about this for a game I was planning out a while back with a bunch of significantly different endings, but I haven't touched the idea in probably close to a year. Do you have any ideas how you'd go about it if you were planning such a thing?
BusterWilde
5 years, 3 months ago
Not really. Having NPCs interact different with your character depending on their moral alignment is a decent start, but developers need to take it further. I guess if you were asking for advice, don't just take the black and white route. Moral choices have a lot of dimensions, and there's pretty much always more than two :P
Claws61821
5 years, 3 months ago
*nods* For dialogue trees, would you recommend the Bioware Method or the one used most commonly in the Sword and Sorcery genre (eg. Summoner, Elder Scrolls)?

Do you think every character should have unique reactions to various morality choices? Dialogue and otherwise?
BusterWilde
5 years, 3 months ago
The dialogue wheel is a bit cumbersome to navigate, especially for long conversations. The traditional dialogue tree isn't as fun to look at, but it's less prone to accidental selections and can accommodate a larger conversation without being ridiculously complex.

For NPCs, the reactions are pretty obvious. NPCs who are more evil will react better if the PC is evil too, and vice versa for interactions between good NPCs and PCs. I kinda think the Fallout 3 method of party members would work well for this :P Have some who will only join you if your moral alignment is at a certain point and some who will join you regardless of your morality.

I think Fallout 3 is the game that's come closest to handling the moral alignment system the best, at least in my opinion. Your choices don't affect the story, overall, but they do have an impact on your surroundings.
BusterWilde
5 years, 3 months ago
Here, take a look at this :P https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KU3lUx3u0

It presents a few very good ideas for how to make moral choices carry more weight and impact on the game without really making someone develop 3 separate games X3
Claws61821
5 years, 3 months ago
Thought provoking, thanks. The color wheel, for example, is a good idea for some games and I can think of a few ways it could be mapped out. The faction meters are another good idea, preferably as an addition to some type of morality record, and I think the Fable games handled that aspect best by extrapolating each faction rating from the combined affection meters of the region's or group's constituent populace. An idea which they didn't mention in the lecture (and which, again, Fable made at least some use of) is to keep micro-management records of choices and actions in a categorical list of numerical count.

Say you have a world on the brink of war between several racial factions, hounded by a massive organization of bandits and another of terrorists (of the 'Just want to see the world burn' type), with isolated groups or individuals who don't agree with the rampant racism and simply want to live peacefully with members of another race. You kill a member of one faction and other nearby members of that faction grow nervous (especially if you weren't caught), angry (if you were recognized or they personally liked the individual), etc; this happens regardless of whether the kill was justifiable in some moral manner to you. You save a child of a slave-race from the bandits; the child, if not comatose, is scared, grateful, maybe angry (eg. if s/he liked one of the bandits you 'had' to kill in the process or had run away to them); other slaves are relieved, envious (wondering why you didn't save them or those they knew), suspicious (why did you 'save' this youngling?); random passersby are impressed (you saved that child), disdainful (it's just some slave), wary (you went through all those bandits; what do you want with me?), etc. Then, of course, we all have some idea of the varied reactions if you remove a specific troublesome individual from 'an equation' by various means (elimination, imprisonment, 'assisted emigration', etc.), refuse a reward, are seen looting a corpse or give money to a pauper or food to a streetchild.

One way I can see this being handled is to give each NPC something like affection meters for each faction and race he or she is likely to encounter or know about, as well as for at least a few other NPCs and the Player Character. Then give each NPC a database of acts to feel different ways about, altering how they behave appropriately. Extrapolate from these the same for each of the factions and groups an individual NPC associates with, adjusting values to match the majority opinion. Perhaps include a chart somewhere in the Player's statistics sheet listing the quantitative values of how many times s/he has done various things, in addition to 'faction meters' and visible graphs of where you seem to lay along certain axes (or half-axes, even) of morality (sort of like more expansive versions of these, possibly matching each axis with a color as well). This way, each thing you do can effect the wider world, and effect it differently if you or someone similar to you is known to be responsible, you don't necessarily have to 'balance' most of your acts except to fit the unique preferences of an individual NPC and, with a properly flexible storyline, you can have each playthrough be radically different from the rest because of actions by both yourself and random NPCs.

What think you of this? Yes, yes, I know...tl;dr - too bad. :P
UrbanSaint
5 years, 3 months ago
Yea thats kind of the only thing i hate about some moral choices in games in how there isnt a real impact on the game. At most there have been maybe 2 options that ever actually effect the storyline in a major way. I figure the reasoning behind making games like that is because certain gear/items/powers can only be worn/obtained by being completely good or completely evil (or in games like the first Fable, certain abilities are more powerful depending on your alignment).People never choose grey options because they are unavailable to the player or there is never real provocation for your character to walk in a grey area between good and evil. But let's be honest, the evil options are there just because they often have the funniest dialog to hear. Kind of like a "holy-shit-im-such-an-asshole" feeling XD.
Anthroinquisitor
5 years, 3 months ago
Its very difficult to set up moral choices in games that have meaningful impact outside of cheaper games (2d, etc) due to the fact you have to DEVELOP that entire different game. Most of them time its simply story elements (Kotor 2 with the completed mod has a log of different changes with alignment primarily with how you influence those around you.).... but the problem with morality choice as a whole is that morality isn't black and white.

If you haven't seen this already, you might like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KU3lUx3u0
BusterWilde
5 years, 3 months ago
That was pretty good, and it brought up a lot of good points :P I kinda like the idea of using a color wheel as a morality tracker, rather than just a line X3 Factions are also a good way to expand on the idea while adding necessary ambiguity and weight. I don't think just removing a tracker would really improve the situation any. It would add ambiguity to the choices, but not weight, which is just as important.

I understand that it's necessary to limit a system like this or you end up developing 3 separate games, but making the choices have a little more impact wouldn't be difficult (as expressed).
Shokuji
5 years, 3 months ago
Yeah the black or white options are always silly. Life is a million shades of grey, they should try to account for that somehow.
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