Evil is boring

Paradise fall - Fallout3 (2008)

Paradise fall – Fallout3 (2008)

I am sure that i am not the only one who tried in some rpg to play “the bad guy”, to get a bit of this mean Darth Vader style in my character. However, it seems to me that either game developers are unable to understand it, or they are trying really hard to teach us that we SHOULDN’T do it.

From my (long) experience in playing games and dissecting them, most RPGs tend to follow this pattern:

  • Provide the player with a measurement of their alignment (karma, fame, etc…)
  • Add or subtract points to this karma based on their actions.
  • Tune NPC reactions to the player based on these karma values.

But very quickly (and this is the case for most RPGs) you starts to see a bias, choosing a good path tend to make the game easier for you and offer better rewards ( Aren’t good Peoples supposed to have very little self-interest?) while the evil path usually tend to be harder with, in some cases the inability to complete the game! (Fallout 2 I’m looking at you!). So here are a few questions:

  • Why punishing the player for choosing the “wrong” path, why giving him the option to do so if it isn’t a real choice?
  • Why considering that the only way to be a “bad” person is to act like a sadistic jerk devoid of motives?
  • If you plan to create a karma system , why creating a system that is so simplistically retarded that the second you make something bad, with or without witnesses, not only the whole game world becomes aware of it, but also knows that YOU are the culprit?

It seems that most game designers simplify the idea that someone may make bad things in their game world to two reasons:

  • Personal gain/greed.
  • Joy of being a jerk.

If you plan to make so simple deductions (wich basically makes the player wish he did a good character) you might aswell forget entirely about implementing a karma system.

Most gamers are old enough, it isn’t the game designer’s pedagogic duty to teach us the virtues of goodness!

Link to the original post on Torquepowered.com

3 Responses to “Evil is boring”

  • Solego:

    So there are a few who’ve done the good and evil choice pretty well. Fable 1. I never really got into 2 or 3, but the first one really made evil rewarding. Black and White was another one where the evil path made certain missions enough easier that I ended up taking my pure hearted god and diving all the way into evil, just to get to the end of the level. I just could not figure out how to complete it as a good god. But for the most part, your alignment was pretty balanced in gameplay. And being good in Knights of the Old Republic really was genuinely harder. The light side gameplay encouraged acts like giving up pretty decent sized rewards because, “You were just doing what was right. No reward necessary.” It’s like there were points in the game where the designers were trying to tempt you to the Dark Side with really practical temptations to the player, not just the character you were roleplaying. Evil done well is out there, but I agree that most designers just don’t know how to let you chose your own alignment without trying to shoe-horn you into one or the other.

  • The problem actually runs deeper in the sense that developpers cling to this simplistic “fairy” tale that good and evil are actual things and that evil brings retribution.

    When neither really exist, it’s just a comfortable story.

  • Solego:

    True good and evil are strongly subjective things, though. How do you turn abstract good or evil into a game? Even D&D with its varying degrees and styles of good, neutral, and evil are pretty strict in their interpretation. I agree games have a pretty defined line, but I think the only games that let you be evil in your own special way without some sort of repercussion are things like Grand Theft Auto or games like it, where you could run down a crowded sidewalk, or you can steal a parked car, and leave if at the destination unharmed to be found and returned, ostensibly. But in those cases, there is no lasting repercussion at all to your actions, you just get to feel better about yourself. As far as a game designer’s perspective, if you’re going to have a system that acknowledges your morality, then it has to do so, and give some sort of feedback based on the decisions you make. The grey area can’t really work in a game because having grey morality depends on the point of view of a large number of people, some agreeing with your view, some disagreeing, and some going, “Ok I can see why you think that.” In a game, you’re the only real people and the designers have to create reactions for everyone that isn’t you, which leads by default to a pretty clear line between right and wrong, because the morality is defined by the designers. That’s why I think you see games have such a clear reward/punishment system for morality. And to be fair, the two sides tend to favor the extremes. Killing is easy and widely considered to be a bad thing. Non-lethal incapacitation is harder, but that NPC guard can go home to his pretend pixel family tonight.

    I guess I’m asking what your system would look like. How, or if, it would reward a player for doing good or bad things? Is there a payoff to one or the other?

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About Me
I started SecondLife in 2004 and created my own bdsm fetish virtual products under the name KDC. I'm also a php/mysql programmer, 3D artist and game designer.

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