308: First Kisses (And Deaths-By-Molester)

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Having just gone and had a playthrough of that, and connecting more with that old codger than with some modern gaming characters, I have to say I feel hollow, now. He fell in love, had all kinds of experiences, shared a passionate life, then was left at the altar. Poor guy. Cheerful, though. So that's something. The consequences really do catch you up, in that game.

Guess that whole "Silver Tiger" thing came back to bite me in the ass, huh?

BloodSquirrel:

Dastardly:

And you keep arguing against a point I'm not making.

Okay, I'm not going to play this game with you. I'm arguing against the point that you are expressing using the English language. If you think that you're making some different point than the ones spelled out in your posts then there's really no proceeding here.

Apparently your grasp of sarcasm isn't helping you understand that simple language any better. I think that in any discussion, the person making the point has a better idea of the point that they are making. If it appears that the two parties are arguing completely different things, it is a point of courtesy to ask for clarification, rather than telling the other person what they are saying.

Further compounding this is the idea that you latched on to a single small-scale example that wasn't even the point of the post (or the thread itself). And then you erected a strawman argument, I can only assume to show off what you believe to be your economics acumen, and proceeded to pound away at that strawman while being explicitly told it was a strawman.

Oh, but you're right, your inability to listen, read, and understand a point is totally my fault. Please. I can suppose, by your forum health meter, that this isn't the first instance of problem communication you've had. Bit of advice: When the whole rest of the world stinks, it might be high time you have a bath.

I believe the problem with morality systems in games these days is that they are taking place in a sphere where the risks are too high. When stakes are up and the chips are down, you really only have three options: You can be a paragon, you can be a dick, or you can be a chump.

The reason Alter Ego is able to pull off a "shades-of-gray" morality system is because your character isn't tasked with saving the world or doing secret missions or anything like that. The only thing your character is tasked with doing is living his/her own life as best (s)he could.

I put forward that the stark "black-and-white-and-50%-gray" morality system exists because if people were given a multitude of options, there is a large chance that nothing could be accomplished. Or, worst-case scenario, tons of content would be created that most players probably wouldn't see.

"Shades-of-Gray" is great for making a character seem human, but given the quality of writing these days, the character will most likely come off as being dodgy and inconsistent -- especially if the decisions are put in the hands of the players.

We can lament the lack of "Shades-of-Gray" in our games. However, the more I look at it, the more I realize that it's probably for good reason.

Amazing article, I usually skim through the articles the site showcases but this one caught me a little off-guard and I gave it the full read. I've got this Alter Ego game all set up right now and I'm going to give it a little go. Here's to hoping I don't end up in a landfill, all burnt and whatnot.

I played Alter Ego as a kid and I found a playable version online a few years ago. I palyed it for days, trying different variations. I don't know what this says about me, but I never once managed to hold down a relationship well enough to get married, and only once or twice managed to have children.

The old age segments of the game are wonderfully written - as you're playing as a retired person who may or may not have family. Eventually you will die, and the more times you play the game the more you are aware of it. Sometimes you pass away in your sleep - hell, you can even choose the death option for when you want the game to end.

There was one part in particular that really got to me. You wake up feeling a bit stiff and decide to do some shopping and pick up some nice things for your family and get ou of the house for a bit. While out, you suffer a heart attack, collapse, and fade away while thinking about your family.

I actually had tears in my eyes.

The next time I played and that card came up, I chose to stay home instead of going shopping. I sat at home, alone, feeling lonely and worthless, and after an unproductive day of feeling melancholy I just went back to bed.

There was a game released in 2010 called Alter ego

It's making the real one impossible to find :(

Available for free!:
http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/263/Alter+Ego.html
and requires DOSBox to run it
http://www.dosbox.com/

Pick this up if you're running windows, It's got some great humour
If no-one's in the room, you should let out a little yell yourself, did you do it?
Y/N

-N

-You should really loosen up, this game takes a long time to play.

Does anyone else find Alter Ego to be incredibly boring? The last thing I want in a game is pure realism. An average man's life is trite and tragic. Glory lies in man's great successes and great failures. Being unexceptional is the worst fate that can befall a man.

The great successes drive history, pioneer sciences, and/or create works of art which challenge the mind of man. We owe the quality of our lives to the great successes of man. There is no better life than that of a success.

The great failures have their own glory. In vagrancy, we find true freedom. Unencumbered by life's trappings, the failures wander the Earth. In pure apathy they find solace. The material becomes immaterial. The great failures march towards the end of their short lives, still experiencing much more than the complacent average man.

Alter Ego is a game about the average man and his superficial dilemmas. A man's life is not the sum of his choices. A man's life is his experiences; things in which he had little say. Randomness plague our lives and we often are unable to react effectively to randomness. In Alter Ego the child molester is a stranger; someone whose actions we could predict. In real life the child molester is a friend of the family perhaps a close relation. The real child molester takes us by force and we are unable to resist.

Questions of morality do not determine lives, the randomness of the cosmos does. In Alter Ego any thinking man could engineer the perfect life for himself. Through choices he gains the mind of Einstein or the physique of Hulk Hogan. The world does not work that way. One cannot succeed in life just by doing.

In light of this fact, I would like to retract my first point about Alter Ego's ultra realism. While it certainly makes the attempt, the game is not the simulation life. By assigning statistics to emotional traits such as happiness it fails to allow for unconventional reactions. Alter Ego considers losing your house and job to be an objectively unhappy experience. What if I find more beauty on the streets than mindlessly slaving away in a cubicle. Living for myself instead of the dollar.

As a life simulator, Alter Ego fails. As a game in general, Alter Ego's depiction of the common man fails to inspire interest.

I just finished my own playthrough of Alter Ego. I was a very sensible and trustworthy young lady who had a couple of boyfriends before getting married (and adopting a child since I tried for a kid three times in a row with no result). I only had the one child, Michael, and while there were a few missteps in my life, I ended up happy and calm and died in bed after a long, healthy, and active life, albeit with an ulcer (which healed), arthritis, and some aches and pains. I saved the life of at least two people- the old lady who needed her lightbulb changed, and a kid who had been struck by a car while on his bike. I also graduated college, and got a job in the creative industry. I survived the child molester by refusing to go into his car, twice, then running away. I also helped the police catch him.

My Dad cried when I told him I loved him after he lost his job- and that nearly made me cry, too, seeing as I live at home with my own Dad. Oh, and my husband, Kip, was an exotic dancer, but not very good looking. I wondered about that...

Alpha Protocol anyone? My favorite part of Alpha Protocol was the lack of a morality meter. Do you execute the arms dealer or turn him into an asset? Do you kill the child that was trying to shoot you or do you spare their life? These decisions are not without consequences, good and bad, but nothing flashed on screen saying +1 evil or +1 good. In Alpha Protocol choices matter.

The thing is that games like "Alter Ego" and "The Sims" get away with what they are doing through their claim of being life sims and due to normally staying focused on a fairly limites scale, where the desicians don't have any far ranging impacts other than for the character. In "The Sims" this can sometimes be differant, by typically things are fairly down to earth.

When your dealing with HEROIC games, you start dealing with big desicians that most real people will never have to deal with, yet tend to be important to everyone. As such the game developers have to be extremely black and white, and dictate the moral spectrum based on what is liable to get them the least backlash.

You wind up dealing with touchy issues like torture, slavery, and the fate of large groups of people. Everything has to be clearly black and white, and a game where doing something like torturing a prisoner is considered a GOOD option for example would meet with outcry.

If that shocks some people, the moral path there is rather straightforward. Ask yourself if given an option you'd save two people or four people, if you could only save one group. It's pretty simple, you'd save the group with more people. Would you be willing to kill one person to save a hundred? Again, no contest, you kill the one guy so more can live. This is all called morality by the numbers, and it's pretty easy until the numbers involved start to get rally big on each side, or you introduce X factors like saying "do you sacrifice your child to save three others"? The moral answer is obvious even if people waffle and try and find ways to justify saving their kid. At any rate if you are willing to kill one person to save more than one person, then torture is perfectly viable for the same outcome, especially seeing as the guy being tortured is liable to live.

If you create a situation in a game exploring morality where your choice is to say torture a known or suspected terrorist, or let say half a dozen people die, people are going to freak out if they find that it's the good option to make with the sadism, and the evil option to let the people die so they can retain a clear conscience or hope another possibility makes itself apparent.

Likewise weighing questions like "do I put an entire people to the sword, or enslave them so they can live but I remain in control" can be quite disturbing. It's the kind of situation empires like the Romans and Egyptians found themselves in with some regularity. In the context of heroic fantasy it could simply be the race serving the bad guy that you just defeated, leaving them there to rebuild and come back and attack you again isn't an option, they hate your guts, so what is it? Genocide or Slavery?

The point I am getting at is that I don't think there is an issue with the abillity of games to represent morality, it's all a question of the guys making the games being too concerned with what society will say if they do so in the context of the kinds of games people are playing. Everything is framed in such obviously black and white terms to avoid offending people. I'd personally love for the game industry to break away from this, but we're dealing with an industry that doesn't even have the guts to insert a decent sex scene into a game, and one where even the critics who push the envelope like Yahtzee are now reversing their trends as games become more mainstream and suggesting they do things like dial back the content that might offend someone (like Yahtzee's recent comments on Mortal Kombat). Under these circumstances things are oging to become even more banal, nobody is willing to push the envelope and risk the possible backlash of someone complaining that a game is telling little Jimmy it's the right thing to enslave people, or commit genocide, or torture prisoners whatever else, and without an industry willing to push that envelope we're never going to see anything but the most cartoonish representations of morality within video games. Like it or not the games industry is not willing to push even as far as Hollywood here, and that's why we need to have the guys in the white hats and the guys in the black hats lined up on opposite sides to engage in slapfights over the most straightforward things people can come up with, comments about "dark storylines", "moral gray areas", and so on are usually just propaganda for people who are hoping for something more.... or usually a way of saying "pretty much everyone in this game is a turd except your character". I look at the original Witcher as a game that faked it will, the starting area with the witch and the townspeople was really good at showing a realistic situation with no actual good guys, but your character doesn't really do much except walk around doing quests and then having a big fight at the end, your desician about "whose right" doesn't mean much when there isn't even a good point to be made for anyone in the lot. Usually it seems most people side with the Witch (as do I) because she does the nasty with you, and is at least polite, everyone else is rude, and had me itching to beat the crap out of them long before the climax.

This sounds like a great game, and I'd love to play it.

As for the main question you raised - why don't modern RPGs offer this kind of choice - I offer a simple and unfortunate answer: voice acting.

Despite great intentions and an arguably fantastically immersive outcome, fully voiced dialogue cripples this kind of choice-based gameplay. Thanks to Bioware making fully-voiced RPGs an industry standard, companies now have to pay large sums of $ to get big name voice actors to spew out torrents of words. The sheer volume of words words words words in a game like Dragon Age means that you have to spend huge amounts of money in order to have just the basic storyline voiced, let alone thousands of potential dialogue trees. So they trim it down to the bare essentials: good, neutral, and evil.

Planescape: Torment has been said to be one of the most dialogue-heavy games ever made, and it offers a staggering amount of player choice: for instance, many conversations will give you the option to say something, and then on top of 5 or 6 other responses, you can pick the same option except you're lying when you say it. How cool is that?

The reason they can get away with this, though, is that only the most important, dramatic, or hilarious lines get voiced. The rest is just text. Sure it's boring, and you'd be hard pressed to convince gamers and developers alike to switch back, but that's a quick and easy way to open up vast possibilities. Instead of paying through the nose for some bored employee to crank out a half-assed delivery, just don't voice it. Keep the important or otherwise badass/quotable remarks voiced, but the rest can be just text. Saves money and time, and again, frees up space the writers can use to expand the player's options.

For the time and money it takes to have a cast of 10 people voicing the protagonist's 15 different voice sets giving his/her final speeches for 3 different endings, your writers could throw together an unbelievable number of scripts for a good 20 or so different endings ranging from standard good&evil to completely batshit insane, to something amazing I can't even think of because I'm not a writer.

Either way, I say get rid of full-voiced RPGs. I really don't want to hear bored peasants or tough-talkin' space marines or generic background characters droning on through 20-minute long infodumps. I have a decent imagination, I can assign a voice to a face and name. Or even have the first couple of sentences voiced by each minor character just to get a basic feel for it. You won't miss a thing, and the options it'll open up will be well worth it.

Sorry for the giant rant, this is something I've been thinking of for a while now...

I think I played this a few years ago, and kind of freaked out after playing it a few times, buried it in my bookmarks, and didn't play it again.

A game that strong, wonder why it don't get talked about much.

I just got threatened with a knife by another child

oh come on, that just broke the whole illusion >.>

How do I access those menus to the left and right?

Argh I'm now in adolescence, I went through and I'm "too young" to do the slide that takes me into the next tree, and all the other slides require me to have a job or I'm too young to do :(

See, here's the thing; you still played this game as if it had a Good/Evil morality bar.

You yourself stated that you were playing "very badly" as in a bad kid. As I'm playing this right now, some of these choices are quite easily black-and-white, and the game compliments me for doing a "nice" or "considerate" thing, or vaguely supports a "naughty" thing I did.

On top of that, this game still tracks your score. Sure, they may be tracked over varying stats that we don't usually see, but at the end we're still trying to get the highest "trustworthiness" score. All of these attributes are associated with "goodness", so why on earth would I want to choose anything that won't give me a tangible connection to the stat I want to raise? If the game had no stat tracking it would be much more difficult in its moral questions, but then it raises the question of why would I play it if it's just me selecting answers? Then again, despite its faults, Heavy Rain did present an interesting take on it.

On morality systems as a whole, I firmly believe that the Mass Effect games would be 100x better if they just completely scrapped the morality system. Keep everything else in the game, just remove any "Paragon/Renegade" instances, keeping the choices in the game. Maybe instead of how many good/evil points we have restricting our choices, we just have a speech skill that opens up options.

THE GAME IS AVAILABLE! http://www.playalterego.com/ You can play it for free online or download it as a Iphone app/game

(I just thought I'd put this out there for anyone who didn't find out already)

I personally played through trying to be 100% honest of how I actually am, I even asked my mum about how I was like as a baby for reference XD. I survived untill the VEEEERY end untill I died from a failed Cancer operation on my lungs...I WAS LIKE TWO OPTIONS AWAY FROM NATURAL DEATH UGGGGGHHHHH!

It's a fascinating game! I'm on my second run through. My 1st run through was as girl (accidentally) who ended up to be successful but had no husband, children, or house. I decided to end my life when I got to the end. Now I'm a male who's more like me, other than the fact that he as a wife and is trying to get kids at the middle adulthood and had a few flings. Most shocking moment was when my father had a heart attack, but luckily was still alive. Wondered if I should try going down the blacker shade of grey (except the child killing molester of course :p)

edit: Just died while playing softball :( stupid low physical thing

"Would you be willing to kill one person to save a hundred?"

On a similar note, I remember this dilemma I heard before. You had a train that lost its track barelling down the tracks and it approaches a fork in the road. One has one person on it and the other has three. Being forced to choose, most of us would choose the three. But what if the the one person was your spouse? Where would you direct the train? The rail with your wife or the rail with the three strangers?

Just a thought! :)

Dastardly:

Chuck Wendig:
Also during infancy, I'm confronted with another baby who gets his face too close to mine. One of my options is to punch him. So, I think, "Screw it, I'm going to beat king hell out of this other baby," if only to see what the game does with that choice. The answer? Surprisingly, while my Gentleness stat goes down, my Physical stat goes up. I just got rewarded for playing Baby Fight Club.

And that's the ticket.

Yes, we generally assume that punching a baby is wrong... but the game doesn't tell you that, does it? The game simply provides you the reasonable outcomes of that behavior--you're less gentle, but you're stronger. It's up to you to decide whether that's a good thing or not.

I'm put in the mind of comic books, and specifically those old "comic book pricing guides." "Super Duper Comics #1? That's worth $11-ty billion." There were even guidelines as to what constituted mint versus near mint condition. It always came back to a "Says who?" problem. Just like every kid learned when they went to a comic shop and tried to sell that "$100 comic." The price guide is bunk. Each person decides for themselves how much that particular comic is worth to them. If I'm not willing to pay you $100 for that issue, it's not worth $100 (to me).

In most games these days, that's how morality works. Somewhere in the game's story (and code) is a little pricing guide. It tells you that behavior X is worth Y positive (or negative) morality points and it tells you that more morality points is better. Often, we don't enjoy these systems because they leave us with a subconscious, "Says who?"

Players must be allowed (and even challenged) to assign their own value to actions. Rather than behavior X being worth any amount of morality points, behavior X leads to outcome Y and unintended consequence Z, to be revealed later. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad. Maybe Y outweighs Z, maybe it doesn't. Maybe some people loved Y, while others hated it, and their opinions toward me reflect that... but maybe I'm okay with that trade-off, and I feel I've come out on top.

When we take the morality out of the moral choice system, at least in the overly-direct way, we start to get into real choices. We can start crafting moral dilemmas. And unless both options are equally enticing, there's no "dilemma."

One good thing that Fallout: New Vegas did is separate karma from reputation. Stealing things gave you bad karma... but you only lost reputation if you got caught by the people you were stealing from. And stealing for another faction? Sure, it was negative karma, but it was positive reputation for them. In a sense, morality is decided by whether or not what you did benefited a particular group. If it did, they could look the other way.

Morality had more than two options. You could be seen as a hero by one group, and a villain by another. And if you were heroic through villainous means (like stealing), some folks might mention the fact that you're a bit of a jerk... but they'll still work with you, without trusting you completely. The system could have gone a lot further with this, but it was already on the right track.

Alter Ego sounds like excellent study material for anyone looking into making a "choice-consequence" system, which is far more meaningful than a "morality" system anyway.

Very, very well said. Also, as the saying goes, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

There were times when I selected combinations that weren't accepted and I was given a message along the lines of: "...perhaps we haven't thought of that.." and this made me wonder about something.

Why couldn't they incorporate a mechanism so that I could offer WHY I wanted to make that particular choice? I think this would allow the game to grow through use. For instance, say I felt my character was sympathetic or calm, but wanted to opt for the negative response.

Now, after a few run-throughs, I had enough of a "feel" for the game to complete the scene. Putting a system in place for allowing a suggestion (perhaps weighted by # of repeat lifespans the user has played to keep down the entries) could reduce some of the mental labour for thinking up every combination.

Also, (I assume) perhaps the coding for the game is fairly linear (due to the time it came out) - but would it not be possible to incorporate a DB backend (say, MySQL) to handle the paragraphs of text while keeping the life-paths open? (on the website, they also say each gender works out to about 600 pages of text when factoring all the decision possibilities and that has restricted them to exploring further options)

Anyhoo, just some musings while playing.

-Mætrix-

I feel like I need to call attention to this.

This game came from ACTIVISION.

...

...

What the fuck happened, guys?

Oh wait, I forgot. It's our fault.

chuckwendig:
First:

You can play it: http://www.playalterego.com/

Second:

As a sidenote, in my bio you'll note I mention "unborn progeny," who was scheduled to be born tomorrow. He decided to be two weeks early, so, not so much with the "unborn." :)

Now, time for him to play his own personal game of ALTER EGO.

-- c.

Wew, congrats!

I'd keep him away from any baby fight club enthusiasts at the moment though, new born babies are not known for their high constitution.

(Also: nice article, keep them coming.)

Just played for 2 hours straight.

Died trying to catch a ball, with a smile on my face :)

That was amazing.

just played alter ego and it is so amazing... other than the fact that I forgot to go to college in my young adulthood kinda screwed me over, I was amazed from the start to the finish.

Tremendous.

Thank you.

(Even if I did die from complications on the operating table with 100 physical)

Thank you so very much for this article. I can't believe that more than 20 years has passed since I made Alter Ego and people are still writing about it. That is the biggest complement I could ever have hoped for as a game designer. I interviewed hundreds of people to get their most memorable life events (and completely made up a few). I content analyzed and looked for the most universal themes I could find. I think that is why so many people related to them. Peter J. Favaro, Ph.D.

Dark Harbinger:
That is amazing. Is Alter-Ego available to play online? I'd love to give it a go.

It'd be interesting to see if I could follow the footsteps of Pink from The Wall. ^^

summerof2010:
I just finished my play through. I had a decent childhood -- I was a good child, though not without a temper -- a mischievous adolescence. I dated here and there, fooled around a lot in college... and then things got a little fucked up. The game started glitching and not following through with some of my choices, including my college graduation, which meant I had wasted 12 turns.

Despite the fact that I now had to go into business instead of research (which I found depressing in itself) I finally got fed up and tried to settle down. First gf was beautiful. Unfortunately, I reminded her of her dead ass daddy and she couldn't find me attractive ("I'm sorry poppa!"). Second gf was pretty fun in the sac. Second gf's husband turned out to be a jealous asshole. Third gf had a kid, but he was nice. He even called me dad. I asked her to marry me... and she accepted! I bought a house. We planned the wedding and the honeymoon and everything was going great. Until she left me at the altar. So now I'm old, uneducated, and unattached. At least all that MacSauce money was keeping me living cushy with all my toys. You know, until another glitch resets my debt and I'm suddenly in the red for 200 grand.

Hearing starts to fail. Bones become brittle. All of my friends die. I slip away into oblivion cold and alone... but hey, at least I remembered the outfit my first date wore, and all of my old neighbors, right?

Life sucks.

After you get the 12 credits you have to have 1 more college experience, the graduation.

I had no luck with relationships, all 20ish of them throughout my life.

Toasty Virus:
Just played for 2 hours straight.

Died trying to catch a ball, with a smile on my face :)

That was amazing.

You too? Ugh I so regret choosing that option, well at least I catched it <_<

A healthy life without any serious troubles and then I die playing baseball when of old age :(
Hmm, maybe I should have taken the hint when both my parents died during my young adulthood.

It was a fun game to try out :o

Alter ego is completely free and you don't even need to sign up. Although you need a account to save. Here's the link:
http://www.playalterego.com

I got to the elder stage in my life. I then joined a baseball team called "the senior sluggers".
I caught a ball...then blacked out and died...

I played from birth to elderdom and had a great time. I managed to get a hundred on most scores but 50 on happyness and no relationships worked out.

Great game and I wonder how similiar my own life will be, I am 19.

Wow, did ANYONE manage a successful relationship?? I got abandoned at the altar twice. I actually wanted to cry at the end of the game.

Why, Antoinette... why?

Chuck Wendig:
First Kisses (And Deaths-By-Molester)

Good stories live in the complexities and corollaries born of more nuanced moral choices. Sometimes, you just have to get in the car with the child molester.

Read Full Article

I helped catch the child molester, saved at least two lives, got married and had a step-son, got on the baseball team in my youth, and died catching a ball in the outfield.

Life is wonderful.

Ben Jackson:
Alter ego is completely free and you don't even need to sign up. Although you need a account to save. Here's the link:
http://www.playalterego.com

I got to the elder stage in my life. I then joined a baseball team called "the senior sluggers".
I caught a ball...then blacked out and died...

Was it in the Outfield, or was I doomed from the start?

Dash-X:
I believe the problem with morality systems in games these days is that they are taking place in a sphere where the risks are too high. When stakes are up and the chips are down, you really only have three options: You can be a paragon, you can be a dick, or you can be a chump.

The reason Alter Ego is able to pull off a "shades-of-gray" morality system is because your character isn't tasked with saving the world or doing secret missions or anything like that. The only thing your character is tasked with doing is living his/her own life as best (s)he could.

I saved a friend from committing suicide (or ruined his death, if you prefer), and while getting on in years, saved a drowning kid by jumping in after him and swimming for him. And yet it was the baseball that did me in. Go figure.

Seems like quite an interesting game, if I'm honest.

Dragon Age; Origins had a pretty good morality system to me; the choices weren't nearly so black-and-white as I've seen in other games, like-say- Fallout 3. Still, I'd hate to get an ending where my alter-ego child got raped and butchered before being dumped in a ditch. Would just feel a little too personal...although that might be good...

I must do moar research.

Aside from being impressively detailed, this game is also well-written, and hilarious. I'm not even out of diapers and I've already giggled several times.

The answer as to why modern games can't do this kind of stuff is development costs.

In Alter Ego, the outcomes are represented by a few lines of text. You can write as many outcomes as you want for that in the space of ten minutes, and the stat following is as easy as setting up an Excel spreadsheet.

Put that into something like Mass Effect though, and you have a weeks worth of work rendering just one outcome, another week to get the voice acting done, and then another week to fix all the damn bugs that pop up. And that's just for one outcome and choice.

The simpler your graphical design, the easier it is to create variety and foster spontaneous reactions from creators. The higher the fidelity, the more things need to be planned in advance, and the bigger your production crews, the simpler the over riding message needs to be so every one knows what they're doing.

I'm not arguing against better graphics. On the contrary, I think we still haven't quite reached the full potential of them in games to represent emotion. It'll be better once we get more flexible ways to code and create graphics.

Firstly, from what i read Alter Ego still falls into a similar trap of today's moral choices; the reliance on stats and stat changing. Using your example of cheating on your wife, why would your trustworthiness automatically go down? Because you feel guilty about cheating and it radiates from your very being? The most trustworthy people in the world can also turn out to be right snakes. Likewise, why should you be denied an option because your stat doesn't quite "match up" to the requirement? Why should other NPCs be psychic for the sake of story contrivance just to give consequence to your stat changes? That bugs me just as much as "You need to be 25% more good / evil to perform this action or select this dialogue."

Secondly, the reason modern RPGs have such lackluster moral choices is because often there is an event just waiting to happen, literally bursting at the seams, but require input from the player on how that event will unfold literally seconds before it explodes in your face. Do you stop the robber or help him escape? Answer quickly, because the cops are seconds behind you!

The times moral choices really work are when the consequences for those choices are not immediate. The Witcher did this extremely well. There was no quick-loading safety net. Any choices you made were stuck with you, and as a result, you were never entirely sure which was the "right" choice to make. Take the earliest choice for example, you happen across some freedom fighters while on a job and they want to take your crates. Do you let them? If you do, several hours later you'll find a mission critical NPC dead in the next chapter. If you don't another mission critical NPC goes to jail. These are very heavy consequences, but because it occurs much later than the decision making process, it has far more weight and ambiguity to the decision making itself. Mass Effect, for all its shortcomings, has also succeeded here. While a lot of the decisions are asininely "you are orphan-hugging good or puppy-kicking evil" obvious, there are a few exceptional stand-out moments in ME2 with very ambiguous moral choices and consequences. I'm talking about choosing whether to end or continue the genophage, whether to reprogram or wipe out a large number of sentient robots, whether to support a war to reclaim a planet. Big, world-changing decisions that do not actually impact the world until many, many hours later. Into the next game, in fact. I spent well up to half an hour pondering some of those moral dilemmas and i could no longer just rely on the "moral compass" at the bottom for guidance on what was best. It's not because of the gravity of these choices that made them so genius, but the gravity brought on by the denial to see the consequences of these choices immediately.

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