Epic Mickey Offers No Choice

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Seems to me morality in society is virtually dead right now so bugger all chance of it being successfully implemented in a game. There's still outcry over the war and whether America, UK and Australia should even be involved but it's not really the moral social divider Vietnam was.

People seem to have given up moral decisions in favour of The-way-things-are. There is a war, I can agree or disagree but as I'm a powerless non-celebrity entity my opinion is pointless chaff for forums and dinner parties, usually flamed in one and avoided out of politeness in the other. We don't have enough information on things, the media is like a bad gossip so nobody feels compelled to make a strong morale stand on much at all. The closest thing I've seen is the islamic mosque at ground zero debate. But 5 minutes of reading shows that a) it's not a mosque but a prayer room, b) a prayer room existed in the twin towers, c) the terrorists were islamic but that's not really the reason they killed thousands, d) it's not even AT ground zero, so stop being so stupid.

Everything else you see debated is about pratical issues rather than moral ones. Health care bill in America isn't debating whether sick people should be cared for, it's how we should care for them.

Try to implement some complex moral choices in games and you typically lose 50% of the audience because they don't have the mental tools to analyse a moral decision, or don't recognise it as one, and the other 50% usually see straight through the simplified dilema to the game mechanics and make a choice about that. Usually with the knowledge you can reload a save and make the other choice anyway. Mass Effect has had the best ones so far as the consequences could carry over 3 games. If you let a character die they'll never show up again. That's it. It may simply be changing the content but that's a lot of time to replay (time be a valuable resource to most gamers) if you change your mind.

They also had the most sophisticated moral dilema in Mass Effect 2 with the Geth heretics question. Which is the more moral choice, destroying those with an intolerant view (i.e. kill all humans) or brain-washing them?

I'm still waiting for a game to get it right but it's hard. You have to balance risk versus reward in a game properly before you present a moral dilema, and then you have to find the right kind of moral dilema. One that most people are going to be in two-minds about, and that's not an easy thing to find.

I agree about moral choices in games lacking substance and ambiguity, and forcing players into arbitrary dichotomies.

Ironically enough one of the best games I've played for moral ambiguity was KotOR2 (despite its faults and the fact it was made by Obsidian). One of the game's central themes was consequence versus intent, and inside a universe with a pre-established, long-standing, traditional good/evil dichotomy it was absolutely amazing. It's too bad you were ultimately penalized in that game (by being denied mastery bonuses) for taking to heart the moral that good or evil for their own sake can be equally destructive or selfish.

Personally, my biggest wish for games is that moral choices would stop being dichotomous, whether it's good versus evil, short- versus long-term gain, or ends versus means as most important. True, dichotomy works as a storytelling mechanism, but on the other hand dichotomy will always be to some extent unambiguous and limited in scope, and it strikes me the best way to add depth, intent, and consequence to moral decisions is to increase the number of potential choices or investigate player/character intent when faced with a moral dilemma.

A great example of this are the climaxes of Mass Effect 1 and 2. The final moral dilemmas are effectively dichotomous choices, but during the epilogue Shepard explains their intent and that, and whether they are a paragon or renegade, changes the ending (and the sequels) accordingly.

ewhac:
BTW, for an interesting take on the whole ethical dilemma thing, there's a cute bit in Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels -- fifth in his Thursday Next series -- in which Thursday finds herself on a ship where a curious number of things are going terribly wrong. (You may enjoy it more if you read the previous four books first).

I love Jasper Fforde.
Had to get that out of my system.

Epic Mickey is a really bad example (you don't expect moral complexity from Scooby-Doo either; let's not confuse the little hatchlings or they may turn out to be nihilists and then where would we be), but the general idea is true. Even the games targeted at older audiences tend to be halo vs. horns. It's predictable. There are only so many ways around that without getting into horrifically complex event/dialogue coding, but SOMETHING different would be nice. Are there any games where, say, where you fall 'karmically' at the time you die makes you reincarnate as different things? I'm honestly asking here, it may have been done.

He missed the point of the moral choice system in epic mickey. It was not supposed to between good and evil, but between acting like mickey's original 1930's system or the way he is depicted today. The creator wanted players to be able experience mickey as the rogue he once was. Mickey wasn't always a boring everyman, he actually used to be a fun badass.

Honestly, I think Chrono Trigger's courtroom scene was a really good way to do moral choice. You were being judged by your actions the whole time and you didn't know it.

The only real problem with it is that there wasn't any real difference in what happened. Why can't other games do something like this and make it matter?

I think one game that might have adapted the moral choice feature well was The Suffering. For those who never played it, you played a death-row convict who had to escape an island prison off the New England coast that had become possessed by the insane spirits of people who had died in particularly unpleasant ways throughout the island's long, bloody history.

Now throughout this game you've got a bit of a angel-and-devil-on-your-shoulders thing going on. Your character, named Torque, was convicted of murdering his wife and children, but he claims he can't remember doing it. Throughout the game Torque is both whispered to by the voice of his dead wife and tempted by the voice of his inner demon. Dilemmas come up in the game that give you the opportunity to be either a decent, unfairly convicted man, an indifferent one just trying to survive, or a homicidal sociopath.

Now admittedly some of the choices are slightly abstract, but here's the thing: you don't -have- to make either a saintly choice or a sadistic one. You can chose to care only about saving yourself, not going out of the way to help or harm, which leads to its own ending (one of three, naturally). This seems to give a bit more freedom of choice.

What precisely constitutes a good or evil choice is also mixed up a bit. I'm particularly reminded of once scene where Torque comes across a guard who is horribly mutilated; his arms and legs cut off, writhing in pain. Without prompting from either of the two spirits trying to influence my decisions, I wound up shooting the guard (I forget if I did it deliberately or if it was an accident). But here's the thing: after doing so, I was given a message that told me that I'd done a good deed. While some will definitely argue, the game gave you credit for intending to end the guard's pain when it was apparent he wasn't going to survive and was in needless agony.

I think the reason why they didn't explore is because it would be either over the heads of the attended audience (families, which include kids) or just a topic with which they would be stepping on too many toes, if you know what I mean. Frankly speaking, I believe it's the former, but the option is there.

It was never intended to be between a choice of good and evil. It was supposed to between mickey as his current and his 1930''s characterization. Do the research people.

Daveman:

Sindre1:
My father honestly thinks The Legion is the best option in New Vegas.
He is republican.

I... see...
Having played through New Vegas now twice I really don't get the benfits of the Legion. I initially played through the game as I would be myself; helpful, intelligent and kind but in the face of atrocities like the legions crimes in Nipton, vengeful but righteous. I ended up helping everyone and befriending the Kings, the NCR and all until I came across the Brotherhood of Steel who said I should destroy the Van Graffs. I had initially tried to become one of them due to my energy weapon preference in game but as they were clearly evil I had little conscience when it came to exterminating them (so I killed that one group, oh, and all the fiends too). I had Mr House unplugged because I thought I could do better for the surrounding area of Vegas than he had done and the NCR was just too much of a delayed beurocracy to do anything useful. At the end I wanted the NCR to stick around but it gave no option for me so I had to kick them out.

What's the point of this? I played the first time as I believed was right. But this meant I had little run in with the Legion at all apart from beating them at Nipton, seeing Caesar and at the end. So I did an evil run through.

Now this is where it becomes relevant to the discussion; I could see no viable reason to support the Legion. Yes they imposed law but it was an unbalanced, unrealistic expectation of society where following orders was rewarded above personal achievment. Where science was effectively banned. Where all women are subjugated and many more are enslaved. Not to mention Caesar being a TOTAL douche, I mean I wiped out the entire fucking Brotherhood of steel using only a big bit of metal and my fists and is he even grateful?! NO! There is no redeeming set of ideals for the Legion, I had to entirely force myself to be evil. The Legion kind of evil is just retarded and the sort nobody could agree with, especially as there seem to be no benefits whatsoever. No sidekicks that I found, only 3 arena matches to challenge myself with and thankless tasks from people I could easily kill with my 100 unarmed or melee skill and 9 strength. I wanted to stay in character and kill the general at the end but I just couldn't do it, my willpower was worn out, so I just talked him out of it... like a pussy... *sigh*...

Oh, btw, ^^^^ a few spoilers. :P

This just shows how well done New Vegas' moral choices were. The reasons you cited were mostly personal, which is exactly what The Legion ISN'T. The Legion is the only faction that can assure humanity's survival; they're the big picture people who will let a few suffer so that the majority can live. Just the fact that you didn't even consider this (nothing wrong with that) because of your more intimate personality shows how well New Vegas was written.

I chose the same path as you (except I eventually sided with the NCR) but I can see how someone would join The Legion in order to ensure that humanity survives the wasteland. They aren't evil for evil's sake, they're just the more coldly logical answer to Fallout's population issue.

Patrick_and_the_ricks:

Sindre1:
My father honestly thinks The Legion is the best option in New Vegas.
He is republican.

Wat? Really? REALLY? there just evil for evils sake... NCR or House seems for more logical. I would say Wild card but that is basically the Mr. House ending.

To be fair; he don't know about Wild Card or Mr. House.
Think he is going to want to take over for himself.
And they are not really evil. It is just a political thing. Extreme right wing.

Hobonicus:

Daveman:
snip my EPIC post

This just shows how well done New Vegas' moral choices were. The reasons you cited were mostly personal, which is exactly what The Legion ISN'T. The Legion is the only faction that can assure humanity's survival; they're the big picture people who will let a few suffer so that the majority can live. Just the fact that you didn't even consider this (nothing wrong with that) because of your more intimate personality shows how well New Vegas was written.

I chose the same path as you (except I eventually sided with the NCR) but I can see how someone would join The Legion in order to ensure that humanity survives the wasteland. They aren't evil for evil's sake, they're just the more coldly logical answer to Fallout's population issue.

Well, firstly I'll tell you why that didn't really come across to me. Humanity is just as guarunteed to survive in some form whatever happens regardless of the system of government in place, so long as there isn't another faction which plans to nuke everything (... I mean again). I don't see my voting (IRL) as making a difference, even in the slightest bit, to whether or not extinction is more or less possible. I see it as how we're going to survive rather than whether we'll survive. And how is ignoring all the scientific progress made in terms of medicine etc beneficial? Not only is it a huge step back but literally nobody else has done it, no civilisation has ever taken such a dramatic leap in the wrong direction. I'm a big picture guy and I didn't see that side of the Legion as "the only certain survival option", which I'd admit would be appealing, because I don't see it as a valid argument.

Also there's still no in-game advantage of siding with Caesar that I can see.

I don't expect you to necessarily agree or whatever, it's just how I see it.

Multiple people have pointed out that calling Epic Mickey's "moral choice" system as "good or evil" is just completely missing the point, because it's not about good or evil in the first place.

And finally, why the hell, after all this time, have anyone NOT mentioned Shin Megami Tensei? The hilarious irony is that it's a JRPG that did mons years before Pokemon, and yet, I think, it's got the best choice system besides Mass Effect, because it's not about good or evil. Hell, there's three main options - "Law", "Neutrality", or "Chaos". All three options are generally depicted as morally ambiguous, Law and Chaos can be either a good thing, or evil, if taken to the extremes.

Law - Also known as 'Order', is associated with civilization, authority, rules, protection, the status quo, tradition, and, when stretched to its most evil extreme, mindless obedience, fascism and xenophobia. When they have powers associated with them, it's often leadership, The Virus, Brainwashing, and the power to bind with rules and oaths.

This side is always associated with God and his subjects. Except, generally, in Shin Megami Tensei (until recently), God is a total jackass, and egotistical one at that. He is the final boss in Shin Megami Tensei II, no matter what side you pick, even the guys on the side of Law know he's gone overboard. However, He's acting the way He does because something is very wrong with the universe, and it's causing Him to act differently beyond His will.

Chaos - associated with change, Tricksters, free will, creativity, individualism, and, to its evil extreme, madness, savagery, solipsism, and selfish overindulgence.

This side is associated with Lucifer and his minions. Though, problem with this, however, it's LUCIFER. On the other hand, it's hard to tell whether Lucifer is actively malicious or if he really does think what he does is for the greater good, because God is an egotistical jackass most of the time.

Neutrality - the idea of a balance between the two. Neutral endings tend to be canon in SMT.

Asides from the ending and what kind of bosses you fight closer to the end, the various sides do have a consequence - certain demons are more likely or less likely to join your party, depending on the alignment you have currently. It's one of the more unique 'moral choice' systems in gaming, if not the first.

And, if that's not enough, SMT3: Nocturne offers several choices, based on certain characters' ideas on how to make the world a much better place, and all of them have their ups and downs, and at the end of the game, a new Earth is created based on that ideal or "Reason". The 'Neutral' choice is to decide to just restore the world back to the way it once was. The "True Demon Ending" is basically siding with Lucifer, deciding to end the cycle of rebirth and genocide of billions of people and go after God himself, and even then, you don't know if you're just a pawn of Lucifer or not.

I was actually surprised while playing through Alpha Protocol how well the decision making system works in that game. It derives a little bit from Mass Effect's conversation system, but instead of having clearly defined, simplistic blue = paragon / red = renegade setup, the decisions are all shades of gray. It is also very difficult to tell what the effects on the story line will be down the road.

Mike Fang:
I think one game that might have adapted the moral choice feature well was The Suffering.

Every time Yahtzee brings up this topic I wonder how come he never mentions The Suffering.

I always say no other game ever used the whole choice gimmick in a more interesting way: For one thing, your choices have an immediate gameplay effect (people you help often teach you alternate ways to navigate maps); choices not only alter the ending but also a lot of small details throughout the story; and even though there is a "angelic/demonic" thing to it, in the end it's not as black and white as it would've seemed: The ultimate consequences to your actions are not so much "good/neutral/bad", but more like "bad/slightly worse/god-awfully terrible".

Scow2:
I wish systems with clear-cut alignment choices did have inherent rewards for being evil/good, because I believe in Absolute Morality and Inner Moral Integrity. However, having the rewards be of the same nature is the wrong way to go about it.

Good choices should be hard, and come at identifiable cost to the player. However, Virtue is its own reward, and possibly converts to Morale Bonuses to the character over time, with quadratic power growth. In the end, someone who is Good should end up ultimately stronger than someone who is evil, but it would be much harder to get there. And the person who was completely uncorruptable is stronger than someone who tries gaining short-term benefits by flip-flopping between them. The natural reward is bonus Experience in RPGs, for solving the greater challenge. In the end, you end up Superman.

The Evil paths should give significant, large bonuses, tempting the player with quick, often easy rewards, most transient or temporary like wealth or positions of power or fair-weather allies.

Either way, Good and Evil should average the same power level over the span of the entire game.

Another problem with games is they are trying to use the Jesus/Satan morality tie, which works for open-ended games where Good and Evil are absolute, tangible causes (like Dungeons and Dragons, Fable, and Black&White). In those games, it's good to reward "Good" and "Evil" equally well, because you're devoting an equal ammount of effort to both. In those games, "neutral" people get brushed aside for being wishy-washy and spurned by both Greater Powers. The KOTOR Games explicitly justify this, since the two views of Using the Force are so incompatible trying to be neutral just leaves you weak. (Some people are "Balanced" in the Force, but the game doesn't permit you to follow the same path because doing so would likely be game-breaking, in addition to defiling pre-New Republic Jedi Order canon. The Dark Side is "Chaotic Stupid" pre-Luke, and the "Light Side" is "Lawful Stupid". Jolee and Skywalker are "Neutral Good")

However, developers keep trying to shoehorn this model into a game that wants a Superman/Punisher morality system (Epic Mickey, Dragon Age, Mass Effect), where the goal is to be Good, but you're constantly faced with issues where it's easier to take a quick-and-dirty route to bypass a problem.

On another note:
Also, Fable considers killing characters like Twinblade and the Defeated Mercenary as an evil act because killing someone who has surrendered or is helpless is an evil act. The problem is it doesn't give a genuinely good "Trust, but Verify" response that would lead the mercenary on a path of redemption.

And as far as moral dillemas go... I hate arbitrarily binary choices. There should always be a third, infalliably good choice that you have to run yourself ragged or be Superhumanly powered to achieve. It may even be programmed to be supposedly impossible (Trying to do too many things "simultaneously"), but it shouldn't be a "Press 'X' for Choice A, Press 'B' for choice B." I hated the fact that in Fallout 3, I couldn't have my Level 20, Speech 100, INT and CHA 10 character (In full power armor, and wielding a Gatling Laser), to persuade/intimidate Ashur into changing the way the pit was run. Similar issue I had in Dragon Age, I didn't like how the game prevented me from using my incredible force to prevent Baelin from having Harrogath executed, and cleaning up Dwarven Politics by cleaning out the corruption with my fireballz.

Binary choices really piss me off as well. For me it breaks any sort of immersion I had experienced when I come to the realization that I only have two choices in a situation. Come to think of it, it doesn't bother me when there is a sort of split-second moral dilemma that I am faced with. However if I am faced with a scenario that requires planning I will try my hardest to break that dividing line if I don't like either choice, or potential outcome.

I believe that Fallout 3 and recently New Vegas handle the morality issue well. Sometimes you find yourself making an important moral decision without even realizing it until the scenario has played itself out. Still other times the moral question is bluntly presented but your faced with the environmental factors that can obscure your own moral fiber. The question which is presented is this; how bad does your current situation have to be before survival is more important than doing what you know is the right/ honorable thing to do? I love those games simply because of that reason.

I agreed right up until the Coke vs Pepsi question to which your answer was unequivocally wrong.

yes, that paragraph on mixing it up so the good and bad options aren't so obviously marked reminds me of bioshock 2. Over the course of the game you come across three characters who have wronged you, either in the past or recently by giving you shit (generally in the form of splicers) and you must choose to kill them or let them live. I remember the first two were obvious, the first wasn't evil, just ignorant, and she challanges you to kill her thinking that you are a monster, so you're tempted to prove her wrong. The second is kind of respondible for screwing up your life, but both begs for his life and cowers pitifully when appoached. But the last guy, when given the choice to kill him by electricution (notoriously a quick way to get it over with) the recording of the the guy in question from back when he was sane, implores you not to listen to any plee for mercy from his insane self, after going on and on about how he wanted to off himself before he went mad and turned into a monster but couldn't. I really got the impression that killing him was the merciful thing to do. And yet i later found out that killing him was the morally bad option! so what? regardless of how merciful killing him would have been it's the bad option because "KILLING IS BAAAAAAD! OOOOOOOO!"
fuck that, they should challange us to know good from bad, not kill from let live.

tkioz:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Would you rescue one baby or five old people?

I read an interesting story about that once actually, you are standing near a switch, there is a train coming in, on one set of rails is fat man, on the other there are 5 people, if you pull the switch the fat man dies, if you don't the 5 people die.

edit: 5am posting isn't good for clarity.

Most people say they would pull the switch, 5 for 1 and all that jazz.

Now same situation, only there is no switch, and the only way to stop the train from hitting the 5 people is to throw the fat man in front of it (just roll with it).

Would you still do it? Most people say no, but morally it's the exact same choice, trading one life for five, you're hands are just a little dirtier.

The 2nd course of action would be punished harder in a court of justice. That's why people dont do it.

Kebabco:

tkioz:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Would you rescue one baby or five old people?

I read an interesting story about that once actually, you are standing near a switch, there is a train coming in, on one set of rails is fat man, on the other there are 5 people, if you pull the switch the fat man dies, if you don't the 5 people die.

edit: 5am posting isn't good for clarity.

Most people say they would pull the switch, 5 for 1 and all that jazz.

Now same situation, only there is no switch, and the only way to stop the train from hitting the 5 people is to throw the fat man in front of it (just roll with it).

Would you still do it? Most people say no, but morally it's the exact same choice, trading one life for five, you're hands are just a little dirtier.

The 2nd course of action would be punished harder in a court of justice. That's why people dont do it.

Legality and Morality are often contradictory, it was illegal (well at least punishable) to hide Jews from the Nazi's but was it immoral? Sure it's a swing in the opposite direction, but works both ways.

Whoa. Yahtzee basically gave Mass Effect a compliment. I'm just waiting for him to comment somewhere else about how bad it sucks to even the scale out.

This is why I'm a fan of Ace Combat Zero's morality system. There are two choices: be a dick and kill neutralized targets that don't pose a threat anymore (since they've already been shot down or whatever), and be a nice guy and stick to the mission. Since you're a mercenary, the first option gets you more money, so you can buy nicer planes. However, in response to your ruthlessness, you have to fight against more difficult ace squadrons (the bosses of the game). The second is the opposite, naturally.

The best part that it isn't really good/evil, it's weighing two separate values against each other and deciding which is more important. Do I want awesome planes that will demolish normal enemies, or should I stick with mediocre planes and have easier boss fights? Should I act like an enthusiastic mercenary or a reluctant soldier?

I must say, Yahtzee, for all of your pretentious monologues and absolute assholish insults toward your audience and fans, you're one hell of a rational thinker when you're putting your legendary cynicism, a cynicism that makes Frederich Nietzsche look like Immanuel Kant, to good use when you explore the deeper concepts of morality and choice in video games.

I agree, in a lot of ways, that there isn't enough contrast and consequence when it comes to morality in video games. The first game I played that actually worked this sort of dynamic well for me was Knights of the Old Republic, as there were a lot of things that made me feel just plain dirty when I was playing darkside. Most times, I play a good character mainly because I don't visit cruelty upon others who don't visit it upon me unless they provoke me. I remember countless times I've wiped out the town of Bloodstone in Fable II when its citizens would kick my dog around for no reason...heh.

However, there're few games NOT by Bioware that can evoke that sort of dynamic. The closest I can think of is the Fable series, and that was mainly in the first game when there were at least two different(if rather similar) endings at the end of the game. Ever since, Fable hasn't had that dynamic, which wasn't really that good to begin with, with 2's three different endings basically changing a piece of scenery and the note you receive at the end(one of them being completely worthless, anyway).

There needs to be better games with this dynamic, as exploring morality as applied to artificial pixels has a lot more potential than being the hero or the villain all the time...

Misterpinky:
Whoa. Yahtzee basically gave Mass Effect a compliment. I'm just waiting for him to comment somewhere else about how bad it sucks to even the scale out.

Yahtzee loves the Mass Effect series...

Roninraver:
[quote="M4yce" post="6.254844.9544425"]

I want people that respect life, realize it can't be recovered once lost

Good question. Exactly what business are you in? You're a Marine, by definition you've recieved training to kill, and thus you're only purpose is to kill upon the command of another. Furthermore, you belong to an institution that pays people to kill upon command, so you're really nothing but a glorified merc with the biggest target hiring you. Rather hypocritical of you to claim armed forces of any kind should have a personal understanding of respect for life and its fragility, isn't it? Do you believe a bomber has respect for the lives of the civilians he kills and when he robs them of their homes, when he hasn't even seen their faces? You're a good person, you're deluded. I respect you, but not your profession. After all, you fall under the command of superiors, and there are superiors who are corrupted by their power. So tainted they are, that morality becomes a fine line between service to mankind, and service to their lust for wealth and power-oops, I'm sorry, the latter is technically referred to as Nationalism & National Security. You've lived with the perspective of the man looking down the sights of a gun, I've lived looking at the barrel, I understand what the meaning of "respect for life" is in the military. Respect for life means: Respect for our lives, and everybody else comes second.

I started reading this article because I thought the topic was interesting, but stopped at the bit where it said that the good options in Epic Mickey were no more difficult than the evil ones. Seriously? I only played the game for a few days, but I found tons of instances where the evil option was much easier. It was usually a case of 'kill this character right now to instantly complete the mission' or 'do some extra stuff that takes time and/or effort to complete the mission while preserving the character's life'. That's a very big difference.

When I played it, I went down the good path just because I felt like it. However, I was often tempted to take the evil options because of how easy they were, and it took quite a bit of willpower to stay on the good path. Saying that "Taking the evil option then is being evil for the sake of being evil" is absolute bullshit. It's not even a subjective opinion, it's a flat-out factual inaccuracy.

I'm a huge fan of ZP, but this article reminded me why I never read EP.

Indeed. It really is significantly harder to play the "nice guy" in Epic Mickey, and some of the ways this works are subtle. For instance, the whole "brainwash with paint vs. destroy with thinner" approach to defeating enemies. In theory, the paint approach should make things easier, but there's a problem: paint wears off as enemies take damage, so once your loyal minions rush off into battle, there's a good chance that unless you resolve the encounter very quickly, you'll soon find yourself having to repaint them once they turn hostile. For this reason, I eventually just said "screw it" and Thinner'd the Sweeps (who throw Thinner projectiles) whenever I encountered them. Everybody else was fair game.

I couldn't even figure out how to use Paint against the first boss, so I just went on a Thinnerizing tear throughout all the bosses - though I played nice otherwise.

My two serious problems with the game, however, are the lack of any real consequences in the ending depending on the path you took - the worst you get is a montage of all the wrecked bosses you left in your wake - and a frustrating interface issue where "yes/no" questions were hidden in the regular "press A to advance text" prompt. I kept finding myself pressing A to scroll only to agree to a proposition I had no intention of accepting - like selling Small Pete's journal to one of the Gremlins, or giving Donald's voodoo doll to Big Bad Pete. The game basically forced me into being a jackass because it didn't give me anything resembling a proper prompt.

Dragon Age did this very well. Moral choice doesn't exist because there isn't some all seeing moral authority that decides what is good and bad. The only people that can judge what is moral are the people around you who observe what you do.

There was a room in the Mage's tower with a succubus (Well Desire Demon, but we'll call a cat a cat) The succubus had seduced one of the templars and placed him in an illusion where everything was blissful and perfect according to him. Her price was feeding on his emotion and happiness and him never truly being free in his world.

So you're faced with the choice, you can either kill them both or let the succubus go. There's no black and white morality there. Is being happy more important than being free? Would the templar have chosen this option? Would he prefer death?

When you make the choice your party members approve or disapprove based on thier own belief sets. No magical moral force telling you you're a douche or a wonderful person.

I really liked that and if it disappears in favour of the vastly inferior Mass Effect system for DA2 I'll be upset.

MASS EFFECT 2 SIDE-QUEST SPOILER ALERT

The finest example of a moral dilemma that I have come across in a game, was one mission in Mass Effect 2 where you are trying to stop some terrorist fellows from launching some nukes at some folks. In the end, you get there too late and they launch two nukes. Both of the nukes are heading for the same planet or moon or whatever, but one nuke is targeting a mine in the area, and the other is targeting the town of mine workers. The choice comes in because you have to decide which nuke to destroy, as you can only stop one of them. The idea is that if you save the town, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you saved some human lives, but if you save the mine you get more money.

This seems like a simple choice, and certainly not a great example of a difficult moral choice, but think about it: You can save the mine, or the mine workers. Meaning that even if you save the people, you are destroying their livelihoods. They get their lives, sure, but they lose their ability to provide for their families. The other choice then is death, but it's also death by nuke, so we can assume that it is both a quick and (semi) painless death. So at this point, the choice is to save their lives and give them an uncertain (and possibly harsh and unforgiving) future, or to save the mine and have the people snuffed out like a candle, and later replaced. Obviously, if you knew that the workers would all just get other jobs on another planet somewhere, it becomes the easy ''good = pat on the back, evil = more money'' choice, but since there's a very real possibility that these mine workers (who probably don't have college degrees to fall back on), and their families, will end up freezing to death on the street somewhere (or some other equally, or more, terrible fate), makes the decision somewhat more difficult.

Clearly, this is a huge decision and really should not rest in the hands of one man, but there isn't any time to warn the workers and have them set up their own committee or town meeting and vote on it. And even if you could, in addition to taking the choice out of your hands (and thus absolving you of any guilt), you have to consider the Heisenberg effect; the simple of act of knowing that they will die, and the accompanying fear, will ultimately affect their decision. The moral dilemma was life and an uncertain future, or instant death, meaning that they would (probably) be unaware that it would happen, so the death is one of blissful ignorance rather than overwhelming fear.

I ended up thinking about the decision for a few minutes (remember, those nukes were in the air; time was of the essence) rather than hitting the ''good'' choice reflexively, because in this case there really wasn't a ''good'' choice in my eyes at the beginning. I had to do some soul searching before ultimately making my decision, and even then I continued to wonder for some time afterward if I had made the right decision, and whether or not I would make the same one if it had been real life and not a game.

FarmerMonkey:
Moral choice systems in games are still maturing, but as far as I'm concerned, Bioware has definitely explored this the most effectively. I see a lot of love for Mass Effect in the thread.

Any of you guys play Jade Empire? That was one of my all-time favorites in terms of role-playing/dialog/branching stories, and one of the few games where I could actually stomach playing through the story as the "evil" character. Instead of calling the moral system in the game "good vs evil", it was about two competing philosophies, "open palm vs closed fist" or something like that. Following the way of the Closed Fist often made you a grade A prick, but you were never being evil for evil's sake. The philosophy was all about valuing strength above all other values--let the weak fend for themselves, not out of cruelty, but because the struggle will make them stronger. If you take away their incentive to struggle, you promote weakness. Etc.

While the Bioshock series has thus far had a pretty rudimentary moral choice system--not quite evil for evil's sake, but evil for power's sake, its exploration of the pitfalls of strict individualism or collectivism are way more mature than most of what the gaming medium has had to offer.

Except very little of what Jade Empire had you do to gain closed fist points were not following the philosophy, they were just being a thug (in spite of the differences drawn earlier in the game),

Well, with two exceptions, the girl being sold and the incident at the dam (the latter because you can make it clear what your motivations are, however the girl is obvious, you are attempting to strengthen her).

In theory, the idea was better, in practice the moral choices were one-dimensional.

AdumbroDeus:

FarmerMonkey:
Moral choice systems in games are still maturing, but as far as I'm concerned, Bioware has definitely explored this the most effectively. I see a lot of love for Mass Effect in the thread.

Any of you guys play Jade Empire? That was one of my all-time favorites in terms of role-playing/dialog/branching stories, and one of the few games where I could actually stomach playing through the story as the "evil" character. Instead of calling the moral system in the game "good vs evil", it was about two competing philosophies, "open palm vs closed fist" or something like that. Following the way of the Closed Fist often made you a grade A prick, but you were never being evil for evil's sake. The philosophy was all about valuing strength above all other values--let the weak fend for themselves, not out of cruelty, but because the struggle will make them stronger. If you take away their incentive to struggle, you promote weakness. Etc.

While the Bioshock series has thus far had a pretty rudimentary moral choice system--not quite evil for evil's sake, but evil for power's sake, its exploration of the pitfalls of strict individualism or collectivism are way more mature than most of what the gaming medium has had to offer.

Except very little of what Jade Empire had you do to gain closed fist points were not following the philosophy, they were just being a thug (in spite of the differences drawn earlier in the game),

Well, with two exceptions, the girl being sold and the incident at the dam (the latter because you can make it clear what your motivations are, however the girl is obvious, you are attempting to strengthen her).

In theory, the idea was better, in practice the moral choices were one-dimensional.

You might be right. I played Jade Empire so long ago, it might just be that those scenes you mentioned (the slave girl in particular) were the ones that stood out in my memory.

At any rate, to (mis)quote Doug Stanhope, being the game with the most interesting moral choice system "is sort of like being the prettiest Denny's waitress...you still have a lot of work to do."

Hopefully somewhere along the line, execution will catch up to concept.

Not a moral "choice" thing, but this is related to Ultima 4. In Ultima 1-3, the best ways to do things were usually the evil ways. Stealing the most powerful weapons and horses, killing jesters for keys, etc.

Someone remarked on this to Lord British (Yeah, I know, bite me, I like it). Thus, Ultima 4 was based on doing right in all things as the basis of the game. It was a very interesting thing, and it made for an amazing series. There's just so much that can be done within the realms of morality that no one is doing. Even in games where you portray the hero, the actions you take are usually things that don't fit a hero: Retreating from combat, entering houses uninvited, taking things from footlockers in every house... It'd be nice to see if something was done with this in more games instead of just the "moral choice" blue/red themed bullshit or even actual moral choices/morally blank stuff...

but hey, things are moving forward, let's hope we see some of this before long.

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