239: Curiosity Killed the NPC

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Curiosity Killed the NPC

Roleplaying games give you an opportunity to act out the part of the hero in a world that desperately needs one. But what happens when, after a few costly mistakes, you end up with a hero that is less than heroic? Will Hindmarch examines the angst of roleplaying a character you grow to despise.

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I usually reload. Often the Renegade option in Mass Effect is a hell of a lot more of dick move than it seems from the preview text of the option.

Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

I preferred the Mass Effect take on morality, then say fallout 3 or KOTOR, I don't want to always be good, so i'll make the choices I feel need making, if that means dooming a species out of existence then so be it, for the safety of all. it shouldn't negate the good things i have done, and vice versa.
though i tend not to put the level of thought into these actions, though the sheriff's story is all the more painful when you go to his house, and have to talk to his son.

Long time ago in a LARP, I created a character. He was originally meant to be a sufferer, a tortured genius whose bursts of inspiration were wonders to behold; but then something happened.

As the character grew from interaction with others, he became a misogynistic, hateful, spineless, crass, anti-social, sycophant. One of the things I can tell you about is that in order to make a deal, he stole babies from a local hospital after declaring them legally dead. Then he kicked one to death when it wouldn't stop crying.

Yeah. REALLY horrible guy. I had to get myself worked up to play him, and I could only keep the act for an hour or so.

BUT...everyone loved him. Not so much as a person, but as a car-crash. He would deliberately piss people off just by being there, and in the end it was just becoming too exhausting to play him and I killed him off.

Dunno what else I can say about him really. Just that sometimes it's not you who turn the character, but the character himself that wants to be turned.

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Of course, sometimes even quick reflexes that border on precognition afforded by the Load Game button cannot prevent bad outcomes, especially in the case of the

. From what I've understood The Witcher takes unforeseen consequences to a new level by .

Personally, I love these kinds of stories, because the struggle to redeem the character can be interesting in itself.

Shalkis:

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Of course, sometimes even quick reflexes that border on precognition afforded by the Load Game button cannot prevent bad outcomes, especially in the case of the

.

Ah yes, that was a major kick in the balls (good reason to go on a murderous rampage for once, though).

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Or at least, you can kill Burke before Simms is killed. Just how low was his character's weapons skills?

Although, speaking of Fallout 3, the Tenpenny Tower quest is my most hated quest of all. Option one, you kill all three ghouls and get negative karma, being depicted as a brutal crusher of dreams. Help get them in diplomatically by convincing the biggots to leave?

I remember that bit in Fallout 3. It was one of the first things that happened to me as I came out the vault. Burke shot the Sheriff (but he didn't shoot the Deputy *he didn't shoot him, he didn't shoot him*) I shot a Burke from about 6 feet away, missed, and shot the guy at the bar behind him, and blew his head off. Everyone else turned on me, and shot me to bits.

MGlBlaze:
Although, speaking of Fallout 3, the Tenpenny Tower quest is my most hated quest of all. Option one, you kill all three ghouls and get negative karma, being depicted as a brutal crusher of dreams. Help get them in diplomatically by convincing the biggots to leave?

I was playing good, but and was disappointed when everyone went on about me killing the Ghouls. I never really liked Ghouls anyway. I made up for it by shooting Tenpenny in the face for that mission to get the secret armour. Every problem caused by a bullet can be solved by a bullet.

Actually the guy who leads you to the armor ran away, and was glitched out of existence. Go figure.

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Yup! This took me five or six re-loads, but I eventually got it.
On topic: I usually like to play a game through twice. Once as a good character, then once as an evil character.

Re: Tenpenny Tower: I made one of my first Fallout 3 mods precisely to take care of that injustice. I consider it almost to be of game-breaking nature... if the intent was to teach a moral lesson there it failed (for me at least).

On topic: I seldom play as a "black" morale character, but also not as a "white" goodguy. I prefer the neutral gray.
In AD&D terms, I prefer Neutral Good edging on True Neutral over Lawful Good.

MancalaManiac:

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Yup! This took me five or six re-loads, but I eventually got it.
On topic: I usually like to play a game through twice. Once as a good character, then once as an evil character.

Same here, usually the stories are different enough to justify a second play through with the morality compass flipped 180. Never did go for a second play through of falout3 tho. I ended up murdering most of the vault in an inexperienced bit of, "they'll get me if i don't get them first." Later in the story when

I found my actions had some real consequence, for the player inexperience led to the shortest and easiest route out of a bad situation, but for the character, he had lost the love and respect of the community he spend most of his life with. After realizing the outcome of my actions i never again fired the first shot, at least not on humans.

Edit:

jordik:
Re: Tenpenny Tower: I made one of my first Fallout 3 mods precisely to take care of that injustice. I consider it almost to be of game-breaking nature... if the intent was to teach a moral lesson there it failed (for me at least).

I think the point was that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You think that you're doing justice to the little guy but in the end it was your well intent actions that brought the downfall on a community that didn't know any better.

This why I hate Western RPG's in general: not enough choices with the character development. You can either be good, evil or a neutral is almost always cowardly. I cannot stand the tabula rasa approach they have to the characters: with few exceptions, the protagonist, you, in Western rpgs is always generic hooligan with no real personality attached to him. You can either be rude or angelic and that is it. I really want more choices than just the two.

As much as this will get me crucified by some, atleast in jrpg country, you get to control fully fleshed out characters through their quest to kill god. Having a personality is so much better than being generic.

Actually, what you're talking about here (the 'save game' fix) is exactly the thing I think modern games, no matter the genre, should try to work around. I can't come up with any story-driven game who'd fit the bill (procedural games la Mount & Blade are a different breed alltogether), but the possibilities are hinted at in Fahrenheit. (Spoilers, but this is all in the demo so go play it): In the first scene, after the murder, the player is given the opportunity to either try to clean up after himself and coolly walk out the front door, or simply rush, covered in blood, out through the back and into the streets in a panic. In the following scene, the detectives have to piece together the murder - finding the weapon if it was hidden, interview the waitress, find other clues etc. Since both of these opposing forces (fugitive and hunter) are played by the player, there's an element of choice: how many clues should I leave for them to find? Unfortunately, it ends up not really mattering at all, aside from aesthetic differences (e.g. the accounts given by the waitress and the police), but the IDEA is there.

Imagine if almost every act you perform in some way influences the future - to the extent that to go back to "undo" something you've done would require a load to a save hours and hours back in time. In Dragon Age, at the cusp of some important decision, I'd simply save, then check out one option, come to the conclusion I didn't like it and then check out the other. In DA:O (SPOILERS), your decisions during the main quest affected exactly one thing: what kind of armies you'd have at your disposal during the final attack. I did not use more than ONE of those 'armies' - the whole thing last fight was a joke in how easy it was.

I guess my problem is the easy way out most games take - decision A leads to conclusion B. It's immediately apparent what the consequences of your decision is, the end. The Fallouts, and in a limited manner DA:O (in the end narration), as well as many other games (such as Bioshock) do give your decisions more long-term consequences, but these are also simple A to B progressions. After one playthrough you know which decisions are going to give the 'good' ending and which the 'bad' ending. Furthermore, they're post-game, they're no longer a part of the central experience. I want a complicated world (like our own) in which decisions taken lightly will later come back and bite you in the ass - or not. The idea would be that everything would be so complicated that you might as well just rush in and do everything as your character/you would see fit, and leave the consequences behind your savegame. You don't quicksave every time before you build a powerplant in Sim City either, do you?

Anyway, long rant and not very coherent, but vaguely on-topic as to the article. Which was an interesting read, by the way!

I find it more amusing to think of myself as the director than the character. Works especially well for games like Mass Effect, where (as someone pointed out above) Shepard occasionally does something totally unexpected based on the short text description you choose.

Really, Shepard? I just wanted to end the interview and you decided to punch that reporter right in her face? Well, at least it was hilarious...

I remember helping the ghouls get into Tenpenny Tower, spending valuable points on Speech skills so I could pass the tests and convince Tenpenny to let them in. I managed to do it, and gave the ghouls the ok to enter.

Everything was sorted it seemed, until I wanted to offload some salvage from the surronding area with the ghoul shopkeeps. I entered into the lobby and all was deathly quiet, save for Michael Masters sitting at a table on his own in the bar.

I entered conversation to see if any unusual dialogue options came up and sure enough I could remark on how everyone seemed to have dissappeared. Michael Masters gave a croaky laugh saying 'you might wanna check the basement kid. Leeroy's been busy taking out some of the trash.'

I ran over to the basement already dreading what I knew would be there, dismembered corpses and worst of all Herbert Daring Dashwood. The only person to show some compassion for the ghouls, and wracked with guilt over Rockopolis and the loss of Argyle, now lay dead and mutilated.

I purged the tower of all ghouls, let them burn I thought. My self righteousness guided my aim as I let loose a hail of fire from my Assault Rifle, leaving dead ghouls in my wake.

The article does ring truth, mine and his morals were affected by the in game world and we shared the wrath and strength of conviction, compassion and righteousness albeit in our own way of resolving things. Confliction of justice and corruption, I ignored their protestations of innocece and beggings for mercy. My heroic actions are somewhat less than heroic, becoming the homicidal maniac Roy was and because just as hateful and unreasonable as Tenpenny.

malestrithe:
You can either be good, evil or a neutral is almost always cowardly.

Fallout 3's Broken steel gave the worst choice of all. Blow up one of two places, one giving 1000 karma, one removing 1000.

Why? I'm here to do a job, not be a hero.

My character isn't doing this out of the kindness of their heart and love for the people of the wasteland. I'm going it because I want to kill the enemy. And because I don't want a major faction hating me.

Original topic:

My "hero" reflects me. Of course, the karma meter doesn't. In fallout 3 it's totally unbalanced. I had to steal a metric fuckton of stuff if I wanted to be evil because of the amount of good karma I got for quests.

And I refuse to play a stupid evil character.
Why would I blow up megaton? That's a retarded idea- I'd lose a useful place to make money, stop off and rest and all the other stuff there is to do there.

So my "karma" is what I say it is, not what the game says.
Save the captives from the supermutants? I get free stuff, and the mutants have attacked me anyway. The game says I get good karma, but for me, it's a more neutral, pragmatic choice- what gets me out of the other side with the biggest gain?

I suppose what I'm trying to say is "Ignore the halo, it's just there so I can use it to slit you throat and take your stuff."

Sebenko:
Fallout 3's Broken steel gave the worst choice of all. Blow up one of two places, one giving 1000 karma, one removing 1000.

That was so stupid, so unlike the rest of the game. Your choice is, "Make a logical decision to protect the world," or, "Be a total, mass-murdering dick with absolutely no incentive to do so."

That's not a moral choice, that's just lazy.

machineiv:

Sebenko:
Fallout 3's Broken steel gave the worst choice of all. Blow up one of two places, one giving 1000 karma, one removing 1000.

That was so stupid, so unlike the rest of the game. Your choice is, "Make a logical decision to protect the world," or, "Be a total, mass-murdering dick with absolutely no incentive to do so."

That's not a moral choice, that's just lazy.

Yeah, the game's idea seems to be "You're a hero, you killed the evil villians!"
My though was "I'm a survivor, and having another few hundred power armoured goons hunting me is going to make things even more difficult"

ObnoxiousPotatoe:
Actually, if you're fast enough you can kill Mr. Burke before he shoots Simms.

Ah yes, I remember my brother doing that. It took him about 3 tries, with the final attempt involving a Chinese Assualt Rifle to the head.

This is actually the only article I have ever read from start to finish, and I quite liked it.
Job well done Hindmarch, job well done.

I tried that scene with Burke a few different ways a shame it defaults mostly to a "bad" end, I did manage to shoot the gun from his hand and save the sheriff but the sequence was....well....not very well handled like most of FO3...... all the sequences need at least 4 outcomes great, good, bad and worse.

Just to throw a total curveball into the arena, if you play as a woman and get the Black Widow perk you can seduce Burke into leaving with your feminine charms. Not sure where the morality lies there, fickely playing with the bad guy's emotions for the power of good?

I prefer the Dragon Age morality system. There is no good or evil, its all shades of grey. Sure stopping the big bad is good, but how much are you going to give upto do it. When does the ends justify the means? Do i dare create the next big evil just so i can survive killing the current big evil? etc etc.

-M

matthew_lane:
I prefer the Dragon Age morality system. There is no good or evil, its all shades of grey. Sure stopping the big bad is good, but how much are you going to give upto do it. When does the ends justify the means? Do i dare create the next big evil just so i can survive killing the current big evil? etc etc.

-M

You mean its all 2 options in the end...with alot of vague writing inbetween.............................*hides*

Funny. On my first playthrough of Fallout 3, I realized there was a gigantic window of opportunity to shoot Burke before he even drew out his pistol without any repercussions at all from the Sherrif.

I agree I much prefere Dragon Age as an rpg compared to fallout, it has more of a human feel about it. Not everything in life comes down to good or evil, its just not that clear cut. Sometimes it is about the greater good, the devil you know and the lesser evil.

I prefer games mostly where there is no morality system but if there is then I like to strive to be the good hero in a game no matter what. I'm playing Fable 2 now and I've achieved full purity and nobility. There were some moments when I decided to do some awful things but I decided to not be evil to get gifts from people.

I like it because you might piss off one of your team by a particular action but that action is not evil or good, its just an action. Heck i lost Morgana towards the end when she refused to see me pretty much sentence myself to death... she really did love me, in her own way. I was too in love with Liliana that i had to turn Morgana down... she never did get over it.

-M

The problem with shaping our characters in RPGs the way we want, is that sometimes it is not a matter of "choosing the right outcome" but "misinterpreting the poorly written dialogue" or "not being given all the sensible options you should have been given."

The anecdote Hindmarch shares about the Burke/Simms scenario, and the Tenpenny Tower issue brought up by the other posters here, both in Fallout 3 describe not a feature, but poor game design.

In Megaton, you know Burke is up to no good, but if you kill him yourself before he goes hostile against Simms, you lose karma. To some degree that's understandable--killing someone in cold blood isn't exactly a good thing to do, even if the person is bad news. You can't warn anyone else about Burke except Simms, and you can't offer Simms that you'll take care of it yourself. You can disable the bomb, but then Burke just leaves, and he never gets punished (why can't you stop him and turn him in then?). How you resolve that situation is extremely limited, and I find the problem there aren't enough reasonable choices to begin with, not that you become "forced" to live with Simms' death if you failed to enter VATS quick enough upon Burke's drawing his gun--or just let him get away.

Tenpenny Tower is even worse. The dialogue you have with the ghouls is more than adequate to display to the careful player that they're obviously up to no good, and that your trying to let them in "peacefully" will lead to disaster. But you can't convince them to leave, and if you fight with them--even if you provoke the ghouls to attack you through dialogue--you lose karma, even though there is blatant indication these guys are bad news, not to mention at that point you're defending yourself. You can't talk them out of it, you can't warn Tenpenny Tower to be on their guard even if the ghouls are let in, even though you can get the information that the ghouls are up to no good. You're railroaded into two choices that will give you bad karma (in game or in your own mind) for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than horrible writing. The "best" choice you can make is to never solve the quest, but then it just sits in your quest log like a freaking albatross around your neck.

The difference in tabletop RP is that you can talk to your human GM to get clarification on an issue. You can clear up misunderstandings, and most of all, you can explore all options with a storyteller who is capable of reacting appropriately to any solution you can think of. I am absolutely certain that if I ran Tenpenny Tower in a tabletop game, my players would come up with any number of solutions to the problem without getting any innocents killed.

I therefore have no problem with "save and reload" if the consequences of my actions don't make sense or I am not given adequate choices to resolve a problem in a sensible way.

Of course if I KNOW I'm making a risky choice, I usually live with the consequences. But there's a difference between risk taking and being "punished" by a problem of limited choices, misinterpretation, or generally thoughtless writing.

It's actually quite easy to kill Burke before he even shoots, especially with a realism mod. Also, you can kill him before he even draws his weapon, with no repercussions.

I actually enjoy playing evil characters in RPGs. In Fallout 3, for example, I ALWAYS blow up Megaton. Every single time I try to play a good character, I get bored. Maybe it's because I am actually an evil sociopath, but I just don't know it yet.

Excellent article on how the games play with your sense of right and wrong. And yes, I too replayed the part with killing Burke multiple times - chiefly though because I wanted his hat as my character's trademark item, so with that and a Regulator Duster I felt I was roleplaying as a post-apocalyptic cousin to Rorschach. I found myself skipping over the Tenpenny Tower quest because I thought there was no satisfaction in any of the solutions.

But really, the area where Fallout 3 makes the biggest problem with moral choices is the ending. You basically only get two options:

Those of us who spent the game hovering around neutral were essentially called out to pick one or the other, and while I can see where they're going with this it just seems so black and white, especially for a game that is spoiled for moral choices and has one of the more balanced karma meters I've seen in games (unlike Bioshock, where killing more than one little girl gets you a bad ending - so picky).

Broken Steel thankfully let you keep going after this, but it did so at the consequence of removing a sense of closure. However, it did add an interesting subtext to my character's actions afterwards - an adventurer either tormented by his cowardice or conflicted by his survival - but I don't feel the developers took any effort to really run with that. Of course, what can you expect from DLC I suppose.

thenumberthirteen:

Every problem caused by a bullet can be solved by a bullet.

Especially in fallout. If not solved you can at least feel better about yourself. Fallout has a tendency to screw you for seemingly smart choices.

Black Rabt:

thenumberthirteen:

Every problem caused by a bullet can be solved by a bullet.

Especially in fallout. If not solved you can at least feel better about yourself. Fallout has a tendency to screw you for seemingly smart choices.

An apt metaphor for life.

Now I see why I liked Fallout 3. I've intentionally made my character a bloodthirsty maniac, shooting innocent people for loot and eating their corpses (and selling ears to some nice old man).
Of course I've blown up the Megaton. Actually, the only places I haven't turned into scenes of mass murder with subsequent cannibalism were Paradise Falls and Tenpenny tower. Well, first I've sold quite some people as salves, of course.
And burned the tree-man with a flamethrower.
I think tis game wants you to be a dick. If you're trying to be good you feel like doing something very, very wrong.

P.S. I've even killed Dogmeat first time I saw him (and ate corpses around him) and sold a girl from Little Lamplight to slavers. I've also killed all dogs in Little Lamplight and spent some time throwing grenades into damn children, but the game's censored, sadly. No child meat for my character.

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