elb's hovel of thoughts

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Games: The Moral Dilemma

As many current games encroach upon the realistic benchmark (although there is such a thing as too realistic), developers have to look for ways to draw attention to their product; one of these is via a dynamic storyline, where the actions that one makes influences the next few levels, and ultimately the ending.

Usually this would be a feature of a genre of games called 'role playing games'. I am sure that most of youare familiar with these games which have their roots in Dungeons & Dragons, with such titles like Planetscape and Baldur's Gate, one of the latest being the Star Wars' Knights of the Old Republic II (KoToR II). Usually these games would have clear cut distinctions between the types of replies (and thus alignment) of your character, but KoToR II blurred the lines considerably.

At any rate here's a little sample of a typical small NPC (a computer controlled character) problem.

Scenario: Your character bumps into a beggar asking for money. Basically you could have three solutions: help the poor guy out, show apathy towards him, or you even hunt him down in cold blood. In short, good, neutral, and evil.

Now, here's the problem. If I give him money, I get berated by my travelling companion. Why?

'If you help him, and everyone helps him, he will never learn to be independent and will continue to rely on handouts' <--- OMG does this sound familiar??? Let me know if you need a hint.

Okay fine, so neutral is probably a decent choice. But then the beggar would plead and weep. Again, OMG so familiar. Grrrrr. Makes you want to cut him down, no?

The only problem is that I can't. I mean, he's just a poor beggar who needs money. He hasn't done me any harm, like point a gun at me or threaten to decapitate me. Its just... not in my nature to be evil (although I'm very capable of being apathetic).

I remember that I had played KoToR II before, twice. In the first, I had no problems playing the good (or 'Light Side'). I enjoyed the great subtle dialogues and everything. The second time around, I wanted to play the opposite side (basically for the cool Force Lightning and to experience the other ending). However, I had great difficulty getting myself to do the necessary evil acts to be 'worthy' of the Dark Side. The only way I could do it was to not read the dialogue and options, but to quickly select the last options (usually the 'good' options were at the top, with the 'bad' options at the bottom.

So for me, the replayability was basically slashed into half. But that's fine, because its not within my character anyway. Ultimately, good would triumph over evil one day.

Have you any such problems with moral decisions in games?


  • Hehe...I see your predicament. But I haven't played Kotor or KotorII before, so can't help on suggestions there.

    I'm playing World of Warcraft at the moment and it has been great.

    Fortunately there are no good or evil in that game per se. I mean according to the history of Warcraft, the Alliance have always been at war with the Hordes (albeit there was a short truce period in there somewhere). From a Horde's point of view, the Alliance are the baddies, but from the Alliance point of view, it's the opposite.

    Haha...all that matters is to battle the opposite faction...amidst trying to complete quest and end-game content.

    But on a usual RPG game...I usually prefer my character to be neutral or neutral good...hehe...not much of a baddie, but certainly no saint lol.

    Hop over to www.worldofwarcraft.com if you have not seen it already - they've just released the new Battlegrounds concept - a guaranteee of continued playability :) 

    Posted by Resident

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, June 09, 2005 12:26:00 am  

  • Baldur's Gate and Planescape always give you the same ending(s) when you play as a bad guy , unlike KoToR and KoToR 2 . But then Fallout and Fallout 2 let you roam freely and can shoot almost anyone at will even though the game has ended (PS : I dunno which one has a "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" random encounter , where you will bump into 2 famous element from Douglas Adam's book , I witnessed my bro did it FYI).

    I am not quite fond of RPG untill KoToR came along , must be Star Wars factor :S . I am more into shooter when I was younger .

    OK back to the topic , I ALWAYS play bad guy because it's like whole new experience for me to explore a RPG game . Think about it(gee this phrase sounds so offensive :/) , if you play as a too-goody-to-shoe guy , you can even predict the outcome in milisecond , which will make the game looks bored . Someone in trouble , save that person and gain experience points , that blows .  

    Posted by YungJie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, June 09, 2005 1:01:00 am  

  • Funny what you wrote. My brother has a go at me everytime I play SimCity because I keep my cities small, very modern, with lots of Universities and libraries. Similarly, when I play Civilization, I always take the research road and end up with small continents that have very advanced cities.

    I can't play it any other way. It just seems wrong. Once I tried to just attack other civilizations from the word "Go", but I ended up being annoyed at underdeveloped cities that just wasted resources.

    To play against type is quite hard I think. Those that do probably have secret fantasies that they need to live out! 

    Posted by Dzof

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, June 09, 2005 2:10:00 pm  

  • its PLANESCAPE not PLANET-SCAPE d00d  

    Posted by Nigh7shad3

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:13:00 pm  

  • resident: Thanks bro, but I'm afraid that I would be playing it too often (partly to make the monthly instalments feel worthwhile?). A big no-no, I'd be busy studying and having no life :(

    yung: Well, I'm sure that if developers are creative enough, being 'good' would have its own twists as well.

    dzof: I guess sometimes our vision of the ideal place to live is too strong :)

    night: okay d00d, sorry. Planescape. 

    Posted by pat

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:29:00 pm  

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