What Developers Can Learn From a Dead Goat

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

What Developers Can Learn From a Dead Goat

image

Developers looking to affect players on a deep, emotional level could learn a lot from the goat in King's Quest.

You have two choices when you first encounter the goat, explains Brendan Main in an article in this week's issue of The Escapist: You can entice it to join you by feeding it a carrot, or you can kill it. Though he always vowed to change his ways, Main killed the poor goat each and every time, an act that still bothers him to this day.

It's that lingering guilt that drives Sears to hold up the goat as a symbol of videogame morality:

That goat is set apart from all the faceless enemies I've encountered in countless other games. It does not belong with the scores of passers-by I've mown down, or the hundreds of zombies I've ripped through. It is a symbol of guilt - a moment when I was given a chance to be patient and humane, but settled for the cheap thrill instead.

Given that no game developer seems to have quite gotten a real handle on weaving moral choices into gameplay just yet, perhaps it would be worth their while to revisit King's Quest to see if Sears has a point.

Be sure to check out Issue 211 for the full article, "Kill Billy."

Permalink

If only more Games designers realised that in order to make us empathise and connect to an NPC all they need to do is make it a mute animal who's fate, at some point, we have to decide.

Would get rid of all the annoying/badly written pieces of dialogue that they generally use to try and make us care about a character.

It would be worth revisiting a lot of old games for immersion and playability instead of just pumping out the same bullshit over and over again.

Take X-Com, it's not really immersive or attaching, but it really hurts to lose one of your best men due to a small misjudgement, because you've spent so much time on keeping him alive, making him better and so on. Even Diablo II's Hardcore mode didn't put so much stress on me to keep an avatar alive, even tho you can't just go back and reload.

There are many games that fail at this, but there are some games that succeed in making us care for the characters. A game called Fire Emblem comes to mind. I could never bring myself to risking one of my comrades' life cause the developers did so well in characterising the troops. I always found myself restarting a mission every time someone on my side died.

I think Sucker Punch should've played King's Quest before they implemented their morality system...

Just saying, having doctors hanging from buildings (silly moral choices) and powers that change depending on your choices, in effect penalising you for choosing, is fucking stupid.

crazyhaircut94:
There are many games that fail at this, but there are some games that succeed in making us care for the characters. A game called Fire Emblem comes to mind. I could never bring myself to risking one of my comrades' life cause the developers did so well in characterising the troops. I always found myself restarting a mission every time someone on my side died.

It's for that very reason I'm still working my way through some of them. Especially if they die because I made a mistake in strength, thinking to myself that this person was leveled up enough, or had enough health, to take on an enemy, only to be proven fatally and level-restartingly wrong. It's especially hard for some of the characters you meet up with later on, who are at lower levels, and yet they have to survive somehow. Frustrating like nothing else.

On Topic though, I remember that goat. I remember the first time I killed him, and felt ashamed of myself for destroying it. After beating the game, I went back, and played it again, deciding to let it live the second time. Of course the game itself was barely affected, it being the ever passive, always observant Kings Quest, but still, it felt better against my conscience, not killing the goat.

One of the inherent problems with many of the "moral choice" themed games lately is that it's purely down to one of two things: 1) Your powers are cheaper/stronger based on your alignment, so whichever path you've chosen is the path you'll stick to no matter what, or 2) There's really no effect on your powers, but you've decided from the start that you want to be either good or evil, so that's what you stick with. Sometimes it's a combination of the two.

I would like to applaud the DLC for Fallout 3 on getting it fairly right. Most specifically, The Pitt.

At this point the question is no longer, "Am I playing as an evil character or a good character," because no matter which choice you take, there are moral consequences that you'll have to deal with. It's an honest choice that you have to make, rather than your preset "Am I playing good or bad this time" making the choice. The Tenpenny Tower quest in the default game is also a pretty interesting case where no matter which choice you go for, you kinda regret it to some degree.

We need fewer games where the moral choice system is (as Yahtzee accurately puts it) little more than an excuse to double the gameplay time by forcing you to play it through twice just to see how the good and bad reactions play through. I first started noticing this with the first game that started making the moral choice system popular: KotOR. In watching my friend play, and in playing through myself, it just felt bland that no matter what we did, the same dialogue choices were always present for every character.

It felt less like I was making "moral choices", and more like the game was quizzing me during conversations to make sure I remembered which side of The Force I was playing towards.

Something I've seen done strangely in games for a long time in games is morality.
Usually it is about being "evil" or "good"

I think this scale should be less black and white.

Since morality is such a personal thing and it varies alot depending on the religion, country and various other factors.

One scale of morality that i like is the DnD style.

Good, Neutral and Evil.
Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic.

A character that wants good in the end but does bad things to get there would be considered Chaotic Good. (edit because of error)

How would this characted be considered in a "you are either good or evil" game?

So i geuss that really GOT HIS GOAT, huh?

See... see what i did there?

Karhax:

One scale of morality that i like is the DnD style.

Good, Neutral and Evil.
Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic.

A character that wants good in the end but does bad things to get there would be considered Lawful Chaotic.

Don't you mean Chaotic Good? And even then, a Chaotic Good character doesn't necessarily do bad things (for a good cause). It's a matter of how disciplined the character is in his/her mannerisms. I'm too tired to go in-depth on it though.

WhiteTigerShiro:

I'd even go so far as to say that Oasis in vanilla Fallout3 presents you with a choice beyond good or evil (apart from the all-bad-choice of using a flamethrower).

Sierra does it again.

Of course, game producers could also go with the other morality system in their game- be nice or get die a terrible, brutal death.

Well I think part of the issue is directly connected to things like Bethesda removing the animations of sticking a needle into your arm in Fallout 3.

Simply put if you get too realistic about morality it might offend some people, especially if you wind up doing things that people would consider offensive but wind up being "good".

Any kind of interesting analysis of good and evil, situational morality, or demonstrations about how what seems right on a small scale might by wrong when the scale grows and becomes much bigger.

They need to keep good and evil clear cut, since the clear cut distinction is part of the arguement used to defend them from critics who get uppity over their content.

Even at it's most extreme, morality is rarely beyond the Saturday Morning cartoon version of "right and wrong". Even in Mass Effect the choices aren't really anything like some of the moral conundrums that plague characters in actual science fiction or fantasy novels. The worst thing you have to do in that game is choosing which of your party members gets to die a heroic death. But then again part of the point of Mass Effect is that even the Renegade is an undisputable good guy in the final equasion (he/she is just a jerk about it). There really isn't an overall moral choice.

You don't see gray areas because they would get too touchy, and as much as I think the industry is stupid for doing things this way instead of fighting, I do kind of see where they are coming from. Truthfully I am sort of hoping to see if in "Dragon Age" and the "Old Republic MMO" Bioware has gotten away from the extremes of either being a cantidate for sainthood, or a Snively Whiplash type villain. ( Snively Whiplash is probably too dated/obscure a referance though )

Specter_:

WhiteTigerShiro:

I'd even go so far as to say that Oasis in vanilla Fallout3 presents you with a choice beyond good or evil (apart from the all-bad-choice of using a flamethrower).

I think straight morality just needs to be toned down, and look at the iffy choices more, where you actually aren't sure what to do. The problem I think is people just want their one big epic ending, and completely ignore the morality ideas to an extent, as opposed to tuning an ending based on certain moral choices throughout the game.

And on the Fallout 3 note, I'd actually side with Tenpenny Tower for awkward moral choices.

Rathy:

Susan Arendt:
What Developers Can Learn From a Dead Goat

You have two choices when you first encounter the goat, explains Brendan Sears in an article in this week's issue of The Escapist: You can entice it to join you by feeding it a carrot, or you can kill it. Though he always vowed to change his ways, Sears killed the poor goat each and every time, an act that still bothers him to this day.

Not to be a big nitpicker about this, but Brendan Main wrote this article. Sears wrote the one about his brother and "Tiger" the pet Picachu Tamogouchi.

Well moral issues make games a lot more fun. So yes, more dead goats please.

Firenz:
If only more Games designers realised that in order to make us empathise and connect to an NPC all they need to do is make it a mute animal who's fate, at some point, we have to decide.

Would get rid of all the annoying/badly written pieces of dialogue that they generally use to try and make us care about a character.

Agree completely, for one example one of the most emotional moments in a videogame for me is in Shadow of the Colossus when the horse falls.

Specter_:
Take X-Com, it's not really immersive or attaching

To what degree X-Com is "attaching" probably depends a lot on the player (for example, if you - like me - always renamed your squads after your friends and family you probably felt even more attached to them) but it was definitely very immersive, so I don't know what you could possibly mean by that.

Specter_:
It would be worth revisiting a lot of old games for immersion and playability instead of just pumping out the same bullshit over and over again.

Take X-Com, it's not really immersive or attaching, but it really hurts to lose one of your best men due to a small misjudgement, because you've spent so much time on keeping him alive, making him better and so on. Even Diablo II's Hardcore mode didn't put so much stress on me to keep an avatar alive, even tho you can't just go back and reload.

Ahhh, how I loved X-Com. I was so immersed at the time my very best man died I actually cried out "NO! ANATOLII!"

Also, Mass Effect's Paragon/Renegade was perfect. You were either compassionate, caring, patient, diplomatic and cooperative or you were rude, impatient, get-the-job-done, pragmatic, end-justifies-the-means. No matter how far on either scale you went, you were still a hero.

HobbesMkii:

Susan Arendt:
What Developers Can Learn From a Dead Goat

You have two choices when you first encounter the goat, explains Brendan Sears in an article in this week's issue of The Escapist: You can entice it to join you by feeding it a carrot, or you can kill it. Though he always vowed to change his ways, Sears killed the poor goat each and every time, an act that still bothers him to this day.

Not to be a big nitpicker about this, but Brendan Main wrote this article. Sears wrote the one about his brother and "Tiger" the pet Picachu Tamogouchi.

That's not nitpicking at all, that's correcting a shameful error. Thank you so much for pointing that out!

marcus75:
To what degree X-Com is "attaching" probably depends a lot on the player (for example, if you - like me - always renamed your squads after your friends and family you probably felt even more attached to them) but it was definitely very immersive, so I don't know what you could possibly mean by that.

Clashero:
Ahhh, how I loved X-Com. I was so immersed at the time my very best man died I actually cried out "NO! ANATOLII!"

I was never immersed in a way that made me sweat when I was facing overwhelming odds or when my guys detected a strong foe (think of those runners in Apocalypse: as soon as you saw one, some of your guys were going to die).
But I somehow, on a professional level, attached to my men. I'd rather sacrifice 3 rookies I just got this mission to save one of my veterans and I readily sent PSI-guys and robots to their death while for my humans I considered safety. It was a matter of how usefull they were to me as commander-in-chief.

But even with this distance between me and my men, X-Com did a far better job of immersing/attaching/whatevering the player to the men than anything I've played in the last... 10 years or so.

Operation Flashpoint is (was) a very immersive game. When, in the vanilla-campaign, I was sneaking through a forrest and outside I heard something, I started to tremble because I feared I had been detected ingame. Yet I didn't give a fuck about anyone in that game. I even let my fellow soldiers charge into certain death "'cause I want their weapon" or "'cause I need ammo"...

Wow.
I didn't even know you could kill the goat in KQ.
I do wish modren games would have goats to (not) kill in them.

Erana:
Sierra does it again.

Of course, game producers could also go with the other morality system in their game- be nice or get die a terrible, brutal death.

That's not the Sierra morality system.

The Sierra morality system was "Be nice or die a terrible brutal death, but not too nice or you die a terrible brutal death a hundred screens later, long after you've overwritten your save".

GloatingSwine:

Erana:
Sierra does it again.

Of course, game producers could also go with the other morality system in their game- be nice or get die a terrible, brutal death.

That's not the Sierra morality system.

The Sierra morality system was "Be nice or die a terrible brutal death, but not too nice or you die a terrible brutal death a hundred screens later, long after you've overwritten your save".

That must have been what happened to Erana in QFG...

Erana:

That must have been what happened to Erana in QFG...

That was more martyrdom, in saving the world from unspeakable evil.

QfG didn't have much of a morality system unless you went all goody-goody Paladin. I usually went for mostly good Magic User/Wizard.

There are dozens of games that developers these days could learn from. Instead we get the same repeated sequels...

Mind you, people do keep on buying. If you buy it, they will make more of the same.

That's why I wander off to play retro PC games and indie games.

Specter_:

marcus75:
To what degree X-Com is "attaching" probably depends a lot on the player (for example, if you - like me - always renamed your squads after your friends and family you probably felt even more attached to them) but it was definitely very immersive, so I don't know what you could possibly mean by that.

Clashero:
Ahhh, how I loved X-Com. I was so immersed at the time my very best man died I actually cried out "NO! ANATOLII!"

I was never immersed in a way that made me sweat when I was facing overwhelming odds or when my guys detected a strong foe (think of those runners in Apocalypse: as soon as you saw one, some of your guys were going to die).
But I somehow, on a professional level, attached to my men. I'd rather sacrifice 3 rookies I just got this mission to save one of my veterans and I readily sent PSI-guys and robots to their death while for my humans I considered safety. It was a matter of how usefull they were to me as commander-in-chief.

But even with this distance between me and my men, X-Com did a far better job of immersing/attaching/whatevering the player to the men than anything I've played in the last... 10 years or so.

Operation Flashpoint is (was) a very immersive game. When, in the vanilla-campaign, I was sneaking through a forrest and outside I heard something, I started to tremble because I feared I had been detected ingame. Yet I didn't give a fuck about anyone in that game. I even let my fellow soldiers charge into certain death "'cause I want their weapon" or "'cause I need ammo"...

Ah, I have been totally ignoring OF, to the point I don't even know what it's about. I shall have to give it a try. Thanks for the unaware recommendation.

Specter_:

I don't think it's quite that simple.

WhiteTigerShiro:

Specter_:

I don't think it's quite that simple.

Clashero:
Thanks for the unaware recommendation.

You're welcome. ;)

Specter_:

Eric the Orange:

Specter_:

Maybe I am just weird but I tend to never kill a character unless they deserve it. Take Mass Effect, I sympathised with Wrex and felt he had a valid argument so did not execute him. The council treated me like crap a few times so I responded in kind. I even chose not to fight the turks towards the end of FF VII because it was unnecessary. If a character is polite to me I generally am the same to them however if someone pisses me off then yeah, they die.

Edit: To the above poster. Yeah concerning the Ghouls, I tried to get everyone to live peacefully but then I came across this one lady who just refused and that was it, she was also quite rude about it. So naturally I cut her head off... >.>

Specter_:

WhiteTigerShiro:
I don't think it's quite that simple.

WhiteTigerShiro:

I'd like to refer you to this. Maybe it helps to clear things up a bit.
If you want, I can answer your post seperatly, but since you and Eric share the same sentiment, I think I can pack you two together ;)

Specter_:

Eric the Orange:

Specter_:

Susan Arendt:

This could be an interesting article, I'm going to read it right now.
I may be alone in thinking this but Moral choice systems are purely down to how the player sees things, Mr. Sears seems to have been affected by this goats death but to someone else it may not bother them.

It's interesting that it's a goat too, It could have been something similar to the original Fable's ending instead. Something far more grande and twisted than a simple farm yard animal in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyway, going to glance over it now, seems like it will pose some good questions.

Edit: Read it, It was an engaging read.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here