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Author Topic: Monday Design Update 7/26 - Morality  (Read 13818 times)
Brian
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« on: July 27, 2010, 02:18:36 am »

This week I thought I’d talk about a topic that both covers our game and allows everyone to add their two cents or web rage too – dust off the puppy analogies, because today we’re tackling morality. And I wanted to take this one on today because I recently came across a box of abandoned puppies and a machine that turns spare puppies into a tax-free savings bond it has absolutely has to be explored in our setting. To start off, I’m going to admit right now that I’m not a fan of any kind of morality system that assigns a numerical value to your actions and/or categorizes actions as good or evil. I think this completely destroys any actual investment in the situation or even the motive to make the player feel the weight of the situation. Adding experience incentives or tying achievements to morality, karma, or alignment gives people a game reason to make their decisions, not a character or personal choice in the decision.  Of course, many designers will argue in favor of point scales or meters or influence points to SHOW the player that their decision has weight, but this ultimately underscores the reactivity by making it into a point system. Giving the player incentives for reaching a specific point value (1000 Goofus points!) forces the player’s decisions in dialogue even more than if they were just finding out where they landed on the morality scale.

But let’s explore “morality” in games for a sec… Most morality decisions in games assume a “good” and “evil” path, as if every decision in life is actually a choice between doing the absolute right thing and the bloodthirsty idiot thing. Good and evil for who? Try to get two people in the room to agree on what the right course of action is 100% of the time – try some perpetually hot topics like drug legalization, abortion, capital punishment, military action, or the “right to die” concept. Of course, games are going to go a little more theatrical with things –they’re entertainment, after all – but generally dialogue and the corresponding morality flavors (which are supposed to lend ethical weight to every dialogue response) start at Ned Flanders and just add various levels of this to the player’s taste:



So, #1 on our list for dialogue presentation was making sure the dialogue was never completely clear cut good/bad moves, or at least that the decisions involved realistic consequences. Allies all have their own codes of what’s right and wrong and while some of them may agree with each other on one point, there will never be a decision where everybody is in 100% agreement. And the player isn’t expected to be able to please all of them all of the time – it is a constant balancing act for any player to not alienate any of their allies. A popular decision might be the most difficult to execute – like taking action against another group to boost food stocks and losing several allies in the process. The player may also use their dialogue skills to try and sell unpopular or difficult courses of action – for example, they might try to convince everybody that rationing would be a good way to extend the food, reducing (but not getting rid of) the Morale penalty of such an action. And decisions are less based on being a good guy or bad guy but on figuring out how much pull you might gain or lose with an ally if you don’t throw a decision their way – unlike a random NPC, your survivors are theoretically in it for the long haul, and they’ll remember what you did.

But that’s not really what people design morality for – they want the player to feel the weight of their decision, to look back at that decision as a memorable gaming moment with all the gravitas promised in a design doc full of “choices and consequences”. Most of the time, these decision tug less on the heart strings and play out with more of a high-hat subtlety – points float across the screen, the NPC  spells out what your choice means for them (or lies dead at your feet), and a chime plays the good/bad variation – and ultimately the player doesn’t care because they just met this NPC and is less a part of the situation than a wandering god sticking their nose in mortal affairs for tribute, smiting, or boredom.

What we were kind of hoping to do is actually make the player have to make difficult decisions about people they might sort of like or need and not have a 100% win situation, nor a metric for these decisions outside of dialogue reactions and overall mood. Not to spoil anything but let’s take what could be a very real problem we have already introduced – running out of antibiotics. Let’s say you have ten infected people and let’s be realistic, you might like six of those infected people and maybe one of them a whole lot. Now, imagine your last scavenging run didn’t go so hot and the antibiotics you were sure would be in that drugstore turned out to not be there at all and you are faced with a shortage (maybe two more people got infected during the trip!). This is a real dilemma – you now only have antibiotics for ten people (one day’s worth). You’ve got ten infected people, some you don’t care about, some you like, some who are exceptionally skilled pricks, some that might have family or friends who will be devastated if they don’t get the medication. Here’s what you might have to decide.

-Do you take a wait and see approach? Maybe tomorrow you’ll get lucky and it will all be over… of course, if you don’t find any, you’ll have even more infected not getting antibiotics, which means in the next few days, all the currently infected will succumb and reanimate. No one likes seeing people they know come back as zombies.

-Ration antibiotics? Pick the lucky few who get access to antibiotics. Well, of course, no one’s going to be happy with those results, even if you issue placebos to make it seem like the others are getting their antibiotics. You’re still going to have a few people getting sick and coming back from the dead with this option.

-Mercy killing? Hell, maybe you don’t want to risk the Morale penalty for anyone coming back from the dead and argue that for everyone’s safety, some of the infected should be euthanized immediately. Now you have to actually pick who lives and dies, and actually tell the condemned to their face that they have been selected to die for the good of the Shelter.

-Create antibiotics? Sink triple the resources and time into getting a batch of antibiotics finished. Of course, there’s a supply and personnel time cost to this option, which could lead to other types of shortages if undertaken.  

These are the types of decisions we are trying to create in the game. If you didn’t know any of these people, well then, they’re widgets – they are red ink on a paper, stats. But these are people you’ve worked with or fought with – maybe you took them out one day against your better judgment and that’s how they got infected. These are people with social networks in the Shelter, who may have made the Shelter a better place or brought their loved ones under your command. These are PEOPLE who will remember when you ordered their mother cut off from antibiotics or will argue for their lives if you explain how their death is a noble sacrifice for the greater good of the Shelter.  They will cling to life.

So, anyhow, feel free to discuss how you feel about morality in games or how it was done well. Pt.2 continues next week, maybe….
« Last Edit: July 27, 2010, 12:48:40 pm by Brian » Logged
GhanBuriGhan
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« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2010, 03:09:23 am »

This approach sounds great - but it does rely on really investing a lot of effort into making these NPC allies come alive as personalities. Maybe that one of the things you should talk about in a future update, how do you go about bringing these character to life? Is there something like party banter? How much dialogue do you plan per NPC?

In general I suppose feedback is king here - and since you (thankfully!) shun summarizing morality in a simple statistic, it must come through dialog mostly, I assume. While most feedback should be immediate, I would appreciate if there is a good measure of long term consequence as well - e.g. an NPC might accept not beeing given the antibiotics, but if he makes it through, maybe he turns on you in another difficult situation days later, reminding you that one bad turn deserves another...


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JuJu
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2010, 04:28:36 am »

Overall I think this is a correct approach on morality. I always thought that morality should be expressed through in game world and your relationships with it. While in some other games this is best implemented through factions, in ZRPG the natural approach is the fellow survivors.


The following is not strictly on topic, but deals with the situation mentioned and with what kind of morality choices are possible:

Concerning your example, if possible I'd like to do three of those things at once - make two teams one which consists of more aggressive and impatient people plus myself (got to show some leadership) will go out and search for antibiotics. They should have great motivation to find some. The other group consisting of more passive and loyal people(so they don't try to shoot us when we return empty handed  and still infected) will receive antibiotics and will be tasked to make more. The worst case scenario(not counting my death) is that in our search is unsuccessful and we try to risk one final place, where "someone" makes a "mistake" attracts a lot of zombies (or leads group into ambush) and seeing all that is lost and I cannot help my "friends" I return back to the shelter struck with grief about our losses and are welcomed by my loyal friends and hopefully a batch of antibiotics.

That raises some questions:
How will other people react if people I don't like tend to have "accidents"? Will such trends be noticed over time or just considered as natural deaths?
Will I be able to conceal some information from other group members? For example, I know that there is a rival group with good stockpiles, but I want to avoid them. I also know that some people will insist on raiding them, so not letting them know will keep the group more stable.
If yes, will I be able to conceal information from only part of the group? For example going with a more peaceful characters to trade with the mentioned survivor group while saying the more aggressive people we are going looting.
Will I be able to shoot my group mates in the back, and if I am the lone survivor will those who stay in the shelter know what I did?
Will I be able too keep some stockpiles private, not letting the group members know that I have them? Will other survivors do so?
Will others become suspicious if I often venture out alone or with the same small group of people?


Basically I hope it will be possible to play a scheming, double crossing bastard.
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Jakkar
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2010, 06:53:41 am »

Excellent thoughts, Brian.

You often spoil my fun this way. You're one of the few devs I've interacted with who already really seems to know what he's doing, and I can do very little even in all my arrogance to correct you =P

Indeed, my only fear is that this game will never actually happen, because it's both ambitious and too good to be true. Oops, I think I forgot to take my optimism pills this morning!

So I'll hop in merely to note some excellent implementations of 'morality' in games of the past:-


Shadow of the Colossus, above all. You have absolutely no choice in the matter, nor even the option of how. No methods or techniques. Bring down the Colossus. Do it again. Try not to hang yourself with the controller cord.

But your character seems to be quite aware of this, unlike our cheerful heroic protagonists showing mercy in cutscenes then murdering another 500 mindless goons in gameplay, as per mainstream/majority. He isn't happy about what he's doing, merely determined.

You are the tiny slaughterman, and the cattle are huge. You will drown in their blood before the end, so learn to swim.

Despite that lack of choice, the cruelty you must inflict to achieve Wander's goal was a powerful achievement in storytelling, and one of the finest gaming moments I've ever experienced.

I've never felt as guilty as that, even in reality.


.. Although, if I'd killed that terrified Thinblood under the Santa Monica pier, while he pleaded with me for mercy, I think Shadow of the Colossus would have taken second place. Beloved Bloodlines - you clunky, Source-fettered, buggy mess, you beautiful game. With the facial animation techniques and fantastic voice-acting coupled with fine writing (damn, this would be less awkward if you hadn't made the bloody game), I've never felt as empowered in a game, or as deeply afraid of my own power as at that moment on the beach.

Not even Fallout 1 really made me feel like I was choosing life or death for a living creature. And here we sit beneath the shadow of Mass Effect, the world of 'press A to save the planet, press B to destroy Aldera- what?', not many really seem to notice the absolute lack of involvement there, the lack of meaning.

Perhaps it's simply that an implied planet, a poorly written choice overdramatised and assigned to a few simple keypresses is one thing, while a character with whom I've been involved several times, gotten to know to some small degree.. Who I must actually beat savagely to death by hand/shoot in the face, that's a whole other level of ouch.

I didn't even intend to hurt him, but when he began to beg for his life with such fear so skillfully worked into his facial animations, I was knocked back in my chair with surprise at just how deeply that struck me..

/ramble.

What others offered an interesting or noteworthy moment of moral choice or trauma?

The Hitman games offer an excellent 'choice' side - particularly in the fourth game, Blood Money. If you bungle at any point, if you fuck up - a civilian may become a witness to your subterfuge or even to a kill, and in a split second he becomes a target himself.

Do you let him go, and cost yourself thousands to bribe the newspapers and cops in the mission debriefing, do you accept the mistake - or do you put a bullet into the back of the poor fool's head before he reaches the door? Can you even do that? Do you have the skill to make the shot, or the balls to risk him tumbling in a spray of blood into the busy foyer, causing absolute uproar and bringing down an army of security guards on your head?

Or hell, do you just let him go and carry on at twice the speed to finish the job before he calls security, and keep the money after the mission to buy more upgrades and accept your compromised identity in following missions?

A fantastic set of choices, a wonderful sandbox, and nothing is forced. That NPC isn't particularly expressive, he won't pluck your heartstrings unless you've got a good imagination and an unruly conscience, but the potential is there, left to the player to make what he will of the game using his own imagination.

On the other hand, in the same game we have the assassination of 'Swing King', at the end of the introductory tutorial mission. You cannot complete the mission without killing him, and the man will kneel begging once again for his life with a long speech of excuses, offers and pleas. Like SOTC, you've no real choice - although here you could make it brutal or painless as your variety of tools allows. But you're still forced to do something horrible with your own hands, to complete your goals.

While the lack of choice offered is reprehencible in an entertainment medium that's all about interactivity, the fact this developer, as opposed to another developer, is willing to force you face to face with what your own character is, and complete the kill on a begging man..

Somehow, that earns my respect.

Io make unpleasant though very entertaining games, and they don't shy away from the reality of what 'Hitman' is. He's become less cold and impersonal than he was in the first game, but he remains an assassin, and one who works for money. Most of his targets are not particularly nice people, but not all of them necessarily deserve what he has to offer.

What else is there?

.. The Sims?

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galsiah
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2010, 08:19:33 am »

Another thumbs-up here - it sounds a great overall approach.

I'm with GBG in thinking that feedback is important, but I think the first priority has to be on tangible changes to NPC action, rather than banter/flavour-dialogue. Of course it's great if there can be both, but I think mood/opinion-related dialogue is only going to seem important to the player if it tends to be a good indicator of future action. Players can fill-in-the-blanks if there's not quite as much flavour as they'd like; they can't do so where tangible NPC actions are concerned.

Juju's suggestions all sound good. Clearly many of them create/require a more complex model of the situation - but I'd certainly welcome that if it could be achieved.



[[I do wonder though how this squares with your thoughts on the XP system:
Quote
Adding experience incentives or tying achievements to morality, karma, or alignment gives people a game reason to make their decisions, not a character or personal choice in the decision.
I wholeheartedly agree with you here, but I'd ideally like to see the same sentiment applied to XP rewards. E.g. in your above scenario, it might be that there are more potential XP gains if you go out searching for antibiotics (and doing some other stuff on the way), than if you stay in the shelter and create antibiotics. This lets an annoyingly gamist concept intrude on an otherwise personal/practical-necessity decision - it's not as direct as a morality-based-XP-reward, but it can have a similar impact.
To be fair, if decisions like your scenario above are common, it sounds like the stakes are high enough that XP wouldn't be a significant consideration. I'd just mildly prefer it if it were taken out of such decision-making entirely.]]
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Wrath of Dagon
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2010, 09:05:35 am »

Seems to me the example given is really a scarce resource issue, you have to find an optimum course of action, not a morality issue. A moral choice would be something like do you raid an otherwise non-hostile shelter to get their antibiotics, or do you embark on a more dangerous course of action risking your own people.
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Secondly--MURDER? Merely because I had planned the duel and provoked the quarrel! Never had I heard anything so preposterous.
galsiah
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2010, 09:49:58 am »

Well any game decision can be seen as an optimization/trade-off of resources. It starts to look like a moral question when some of those resources are NPCs' reactions/respect/admiration/friendship/fear... towards the PC. Morality implies some judgement of action/intent, and here the most significant judgement comes from other survivors, rather than the game system or the player. If some PC decision is going to influence the other survivors' view of him as a person, then you could say it's a moral decision.

In particular, it means that the morality of the game is relative to the current group - if everyone agrees/disagrees with some course of action, it's not an interesting moral question.

That does raise an issue about the morality of the PC though. Take a situation where everyone else in the group wants to take some harsh-but-pragmatic decision - e.g. killing an innocent-but-infected person for resources, when antibiotics are low but not yet running out. There's no incentive here for the player to evaluate things according to the morality of the PC: if everyone else in the group sees things one way, then the player's only reward is in following their wishes. Taking a moral stand when everyone is against him, gains him nothing.
Of course it's pretty reasonable that there wouldn't be tangible rewards for some moral stand against a pragmatic course. But it's much less reasonable to think that there wouldn't be a psychological cost to the PC in going against a strongly-held moral conviction. One potential problem with having NPCs as the only moral judges, is that the PC has little incentive towards following any consistent moral code - beyond pragmatism/psychopathy.

This is likely to be less of an issue with respect to keeping things interesting, if there will rarely be complete agreement between the group. However, I do think it's an important point regardless. If the player is to see the PC as a character, then there probably ought to be some real psychological consequences for an action that throws out the PC's moral code for some pragmatic gain.

I don't have a particularly good solution to this, since in some ways it amounts to exactly the kind of morality-points system Brian dislikes (as do I). However, I guess that it could probably work if some serious thought/work were put into it. A trivial/half-arsed system would almost certainly be worth than nothing. At the least, you'd need some initial model of PC morality/psychology, together with a way to fit world events into that. Ideally you'd probably want to let things change over time too - e.g. the first innocent brutally murdered for the greater good, probably does more psychological harm than the tenth.

It'd be pretty easy to have such a system effectively be optional, by allowing the player to define his PC as a "Psychopath" at character generation - which is equivalent to a system with no internal-PC-morality-consequences.

Of course you could argue that the player is supposed to feel the pain of going against a PC's morality, but I don't think I buy that here. First it assumes that the player's morality is the PC's - it's hard to 'feel' as a really different person, even if you can think/act like one. Second, it rather ignores the potentially irrational responses to the extremity of the situation: the player might be ready to throw out conventional moral codes on a rational basis, where the PC might cling to them as some piece of normality in a terrifying/weird situation; alternatively, the player might apply conventional morality to a situation where the PC's experiences have changed/warped/numbed such considerations.
Basically, I'd guess the player would be setting up his moral framework rationally, whereas the PC's is dictated by instinct/emotion/the-impact-of-events. I don't think relying on the player here is a good fit.


All that said, I still think it's a very nice approach. I just think it's incomplete without some notion of PC morality/psychology that goes beyond pragmatic evaluation of the reactions of allies.
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sporky
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2010, 11:25:50 am »

Well written dialog, descriptions of events, and narration could fill in the feeling of weight to the actions you have your character take. As long as the writing is good, events would feel "good" or "bad" because they would be good or bad.

 I understand that I'm talking about what the player feels, and you were partially addressing a role-played PC's reaction to things. I guess I would rather play a cipher, if that's the right word, rather than have my character be gloomy or spout pissy flavor texts because I made him do stuff against his code, and have the feeling of trade-off or transgression be shown in group reaction or the way events play out.
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Deviija
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2010, 12:00:45 pm »


I enjoyed reading this update -- enough that I wanted to respond to it, as I usually am a quiet follower. 

I do enjoy that morality choices are not labeled, pigeonholed, or tracked by numbers/bars.  That is definitely the right direction for games to venture into the future with.  A game arbitrarily judging you, the player, or your character, for what she decides is an awful mechanic since it is using the developers' or writers' colored view on what is 'Good' and 'Evil.'  There is no absolute, only varying shades of someone else imposing their perceptions and philosophy upon your game.  Which may be well and good for some, but for me... the weight and impact is not there.  Especially if I am really in disagreement with the options given and the choices I made.  It is a disconnect. 

Having NPCs, people you care about, being the driving narrative for what makes morality is a great framework.  Moral decisions will have impact as the roleplayed character or player will need to think about those they have grown to care about.  The safety and well-being of the protagonist's skilled fighters, or friends, or lover, etc.  Needs of the many or needs of the few/one.  BioWare, for example, has gone in the direction of having no morality bars or tracking in their Dragon Age franchise.  It is all about your PC and her decisions, choices, and what repercussions that can have with the people you're traveling with, growing to care about, and even become romantically involved with.  So kudos to this.

Now... that said, my concern is about these NPCs in the game.  A huge part of making people care about random faces is their personality, interpersonal relationships (with the PC and other NPCs), and the depth of their dialogues.  If we're talking Bethesda style shallow relations, and people become random packmules after a conversation, then I know I will feel nothing and care nothing about the throng of faceless mouths to feed.  If they are more like DA: Origins, with very deep companion roots, spanning dialogue trees, backstories, banter, interparty chats, personality quirks and faults, friendships and romances, then it'll be easy to feel conflicted.  You'll have gotten to 'know' these people.  Socialization makes a large difference between apathy and empathy.   
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galsiah
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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2010, 01:26:00 pm »

Well written dialog, descriptions of events, and narration could fill in the feeling of weight to the actions you have your character take. As long as the writing is good, events would feel "good" or "bad" because they would be good or bad.
Sure, but in some ways that makes it worse: the action feels "bad" to the player, but there's no trauma for the PC after he take the action. A PC could reasonably be driven to the point of insanity by the need to take horrific action, but the player isn't going to experience anything like that, however connected/immersed he feels. If every PC remains wholly unaffected by any harsh/immoral/horrific decisions he makes, it doesn't seem too convincing.

Quote
I guess I would rather play a cipher, if that's the right word...
Sure - there's not much wrong in this. As I say, I do like the overall approach, and I think it can work really well. My comments were merely to point out something that I think is missing from such a model. I imagine that a good solution to this omission would be hard to construct, and that a bad one would be worse than none at all.

Quote
...rather than have my character be gloomy or spout pissy flavor texts because I made him do stuff against his code...
I'm not talking about flavour texts or similar, but rather about tangible changes to the way the PC can interact. For example, the dialogue options that are presented to the PC could depend on his actions/morality. E.g. a particularly empathetic plan might not occur to a character who's been murdering people left-and-right for resources; alternatively, a plan involving brutal-murder-for-profit might not occur to a character who has consistently avoided killing where possible.
Gloominess/sadness/horror/... could also be used to reasonable effect, if the downsides and upsides were balanced. E.g. having the PC take some horrific action/decision might make him morose/depressed/upset/angry/... with some debilitating effect; but seeing the PC take the decision so hard might make NPCs more sympathetic/empathetic to the tough realities of his situation. On the other hand, a PC who can make a decision involving the death of allies/friends without any negative impact on his mood/functionality, might come across to NPCs as cold/unfeeling/amoral/inhuman..., and respond more negatively towards him in future.

These are just examples, but I think that anything done in this direction would need to have some real impact - not just a few pissy one-liners. I also think it's important that there usually be upsides and downsides (or even subjective sides) to most such consequences. Deciding at the outset to play a cool, detached pragmatist, might mean that the PC can handle such situations without ill-effects, but might leave others much more inclined to see him as a military leader (/despotic-tyrant / psychopath), than as a friend/comrade/person.
Going against some idea of a moral code needn't necessarily even involve penalties - I just think it ought ideally to have an impact on the PC. Perhaps that impact might be to change his mental/emotional state to the extent that he's likely to think of different ideas/plans/responses - so you'd adapt dialogue responses based on this. Picking an initial moral-outlook at character generation could simply mean picking some initial configuration for such checks - so touchy-feely types are more likely to come up with empathetic options etc..

Clearly this sort of thing involves more work - if you can afford to put in some fixed amount of dialogue responses, you need to prioritize how you're going to select the options available to any individual PC. I think it'd be a nice touch to have a brutal-murdering-pragmatist PC slowly run out of dialogue options based on empathy/humanity/... (at least where they'd be non-obvious ideas to a pragmatist), but have a few more options based on horrific-but-logical approaches; and the reverse for kind/empathetic/preserving-life-in-the-short-term... characters. Perhaps too much to hope, but I think it'd be a plus if there's time.



@Deviija
I'm pretty sure that a lot of work/writing is going into bringing characters to life. There aren't a huge number of NPCs, so it should be a reasonable proposition to have each be three-dimensional.
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sporky
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« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2010, 02:34:16 pm »

Whoo, that would be ambitious, galsiah. You would need fully implemented PTSD!
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JuJu
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2010, 02:49:39 pm »

Also consider the fact that if PC behaves much differently than player expects him to it will cause disconnection between the two. And as you said most players won't feel much when a party members die it will be a frustrating mystery on why the PC is suddenly such a quivering wreck of wuss. In a lot of cases this would be equivalent to things that are hated in other RPG's, namely game assuming that the PC cares about a specific character whereas the player usually thinks of such a character negatively.
Basically for this to work you need to have player care a lot like PC would and if you already have done that there is little reason to include additional penalties if player acts against his principles.
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galsiah
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2010, 03:35:23 pm »

There's a rather large difference between having absolutely no reaction, and becoming a "quivering wreck of wuss". I'd also hope players would feel something when a party-member dies - they're just not going through the same experience as the PC. I'm also not talking about conscious PC reactions, but about subconscious stuff: not particularly caring about someone doesn't mean that you'll be unaffected by the need to shoot them in the head for the greater good.

Caring about a particular person is a highly subjective matter; being somewhat traumatised by the need to shoot someone in the head is much less so. Or rather the latter is saying something about the PC alone, rather than his relationship to any particular person. It might be difficult to come up with any good moral framework to handle the situations that come up in an RPG, but that's not really required here. All you'd be saying about the PC is stuff like "This guy finds it traumatic to shoot people" - which needn't be more limiting than "This guy is strong/weak", or "This guy is good/bad with guns". It's not saying that he can't/won't kill, or making any judgement about the morality of a specific case. It's simply saying that when he does decide/need to kill, he's likely to respond badly. It's also saying that he's unlikely to routinely come up with non-obvious ideas/suggestions that revolve around killing people.

It's pretty simple to add some explanation text or other feedback to indicate the reason any factor like this has come into play - so there needn't be any "frustrating mystery". You'd also almost certainly need to have some character-generation element to a system like this, so the player would have actively chosen some trait/properties/attitudes/values... of the PC at the outset. If a player picks the "animal-rights-activist" trait, then starts attacking bunnies with cheese-graters, he shouldn't be shocked if his character suffers debilitating effects.

Basically for this to work you need to have player care a lot like PC would and if you already have done that there is little reason to include additional penalties if player acts against his principles.
I disagree with the last part. Having the player act against his principles makes the player feel bad, but does nothing to affect the PC. The player feeling bad might be enough to get the feel/disincentive of things right. However, it doesn't give you a coherent model of the situation, since the PC can happily go about his business like nothing happened. It's no good if the player spends an hour weeping into his keyboard before he can continue, if the PC is able to recover in a split-second.


Again, I'm not hugely in favour of this, and I'm well aware that there could be issues. I just think it's something worth thinking about. Without it you do have the PC-as-pragmatic-psychopath model, which I don't think is ideal.
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Plalito
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2010, 04:47:57 pm »

There was a discussion a while ago about personality traits, I think it's worth a look for those who have not read it. This thread is kind of leading towards that direction, so it covers some interesting points regarding the subject. http://www.irontowerstudio.com/forum/index.php/topic,35.0.html

Quote from: galsiah
Basically for this to work you need to have player care a lot like PC would and if you already have done that there is little reason to include additional penalties if player acts against his principles.
I disagree with the last part. Having the player act against his principles makes the player feel bad, but does nothing to affect the PC. The player feeling bad might be enough to get the feel/disincentive of things right. However, it doesn't give you a coherent model of the situation, since the PC can happily go about his business like nothing happened. It's no good if the player spends an hour weeping into his keyboard before he can continue, if the PC is able to recover in a split-second.

My first thought was similar to JuJu's, but I began to realize how just allowing the players principals to dictate what the PC does would only work for the first few tough decisions you make in-game, but eventually I think most people will just game the system. Like the example you brought up, "Killing an innocent-but-infected person for resources, when antibiotics are low but not yet running out. There's no incentive here for the player to evaluate things according to the morality of the PC: if everyone else in the group sees things one way, then the player's only reward is in following their wishes."

Eventually it seems that most players decisions will eventually boil down to "what will make most people happy?", regardless of the implied moral implications.

Quote from: galsiah
Without it you do have the PC-as-pragmatic-psychopath model, which I don't think is ideal.

I think this is an interesting point and the only solution I can think of would rely on some sort of personality system. It would be the only thing that would consistently keep morality based decisions relevant to the PC's in-game actions.
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JuJu
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2010, 05:27:20 pm »

Without it you do have the PC-as-pragmatic-psychopath model, which I don't think is ideal.
No. Without it you have PC as a mirror to player. If the game otherwise has little emotional impact then yes, the player will act as pragmatic psychopath. Otherwise not so much.


... but I began to realize how just allowing the players principals to dictate what the PC does would only work for the first few tough decisions you make in-game, but eventually I think most people will just game the system
I disagree with that. I believe that most players will do either what they think is right or what they think is interesting. The point is to get players interested enough in game situation so they have relatively strong feelings about what is right and what is wrong.

There's no incentive here for the player to evaluate things according to the morality of the PC: if everyone else in the group sees things one way, then the player's only reward is in following their wishes."[/i]
Yes, there is no incentive to evaluate things according to morality of PC, but there is an incentive for player to evaluate situation according to his own morality.


As an anecdotal example I'll provide my experience playing Witcher. During the first act you can help Scoatel smuggle some goods in to city, that unknown to you are actually weapons.  If you do so then at the beginning of the first act they kill a drug dealer that is your potential lead in murder investigation. From point of view of PC this is neither morally wrong, nor right. Although there was a murder that is potentially wrong, the victim was a poisoning lives of many other people. But at that point I as player applied my own morality and got offended by the fact that Scoatel betrayed me and made my life harder, therefore I harboured a strong hatred against them ever since and joined the other faction. What made me make this choice that had a lasting impact on the whole game was not the rewards or morality of PC, just getting me emotionally involved enough by good storytelling.
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