Morality Systems

As we all know, games have been using morality systems, some better than others. My question is this Escapist, what would be the true Morality system for you and how would you specifically design it? Do you think Morality systems are even a good thing?

For me personally, I think a morality system modeled after DnD would be perfect. Lawful, chaotic, neutral, good and evil. I know for a fact that we can't just bring in every thinkable personality in the world, but I believe something like this would be a good choice, giving us a total of nine possible personalities.

What's your thought process Escapist?

What I liked the most about Deus Ex (played it for the first time last summer) is that your decisions are not divided into "good" or "evil" and, and the developers didn't label them as such.

I say, can the morality system and morality bars and just have actions and consequences.

I don't like morality systems unless they're actually part of the world. So good/evil/law/chaos in Planescape: Torment is cool, but paragon/renegade is basically A) a crutch that B) significantly impedes the writing.

A proper morality system would be non-existent, giving you choices that are not cut and dry Good/Evil or grey in a way that it doesn't leave you questioning whether you did the right thing.

Basically, a lot of "grey" moral choices involve screwing either person/party A or person/party B equally over, the aftermath is pretty much "yeah, that happened". You do not ask yourself afterwards whether it was the right thing or what the consequences will be, that would be a much better morality system: true grey.

This is why I like Alpha Protocol.

There's no real clear-cut good choice, even it seems obvious. So every choice exists in a state of grey & it's only based on what you know & your past efforts & your associations.

If I designed a morality system, it's based around the fact that there's no real clear-cut choice & that every choice is one you would make. So if you screw someone over, it's because of a choice you made because of the situation warranting it & based on what you know, not just good or evil.

TephlonPrice:
This is why I like Alpha Protocol.

There's no real clear-cut good choice, even it seems obvious. So every choice exists in a state of grey & it's only based on what you know & your past efforts & your associations.

If I designed a morality system, it's based around the fact that there's no real clear-cut choice & that every choice is one you would make. So if you screw someone over, it's because of a choice you made because of the situation warranting it & based on what you know, not just good or evil.

God I wish Alpha Protocol would have been better so that more people played it. So much potential that just gets hurt by iffy game-play...

I highly agree with this. There should be no good/evil bar (especially considering morality itself is a grey concept) that tells you if you're Satan or Jesus; just choices that end with consequences.

I think being able to be good or evil is fine, but I don't like receiving nebulous rewards as a consequence, such as "Dark Side Points" or whatever.

I think the Elder Scrolls games do a good job of that... if I want to be a dick I can be a dick and it's just about what my character will do, not about some goal I'm working towards like "I need X number of evil deeds so I can do Y." Very fourth-wall breaking for me.

I've been fiddling around with this idea in my spare time but if each society (nation, town, clan, etc.) has a shared ideal of what's good and bad then that's how they'll judge your moral. Then there's the personal relationships which are more specific such as agreeing with a society standpoint but not on how they handle it. Then there's you. There is no true line of what is right or wrong when what you think is right will be considered wrong by someone else.

Now... how do we make a system for that in a video game?

(Hint: you need to be thorough)

No, the nine D&D alignments aren't good (lowercase 'g' there). Nor is any other morality system that basically emulates them (a lot of them). I'd rather morality be non-existent (as in "not visible and measured") than being stuck with a stupid system like that.

Why it's stupid? Well, D&D's system only works for D&D and people have to understand that. In D&D morality is objective - there are literal forces and planes of Good, Evil, Neutral, Lawful, etc. It is external. If you say somebody is Evil, then they are Evil, not somebody who has the greater good of mankind as their ultimate goal. The reason is simple - because it can justify killing things easier. If you say "this necromancer is Evil" it is really easy to then just murder them. No, the necromancer doesn't need patience and understanding to turn from his ways of black magic - he wants living things to suffer that's his goal. That was the entire goal behind the alignments system - to simplify the morality.

With that in mind, you can see why it's bad to emulate that - it means that morality is objective, i.e., it's governed by external things rather than personal motivations. So the games that use that oversimplify the things and render all moral choices shallow.

DA:O is a good example where the morality is removed and it works. You can tell who of your companions is basically a good guy or not. They have their own beliefs for what is right or wrong but still some are genuinely better than the others. Your own choices aren't ranked and scored but you can still see what is generally good or bad - you can be a total dick to the guy who killed your family, because Fuck. That. Guy! He killed your family, he doesn't deserve pity (perhaps)! So you can be totally evil on his ass but still overall a good person to everybody else. And you aren't penalised for that. The morality choices carry their own reward or penalty, so you can still have the character you want.

Another good example is the Witcher - in that case a D&D style morality just doesn't work, because the whole universe is in just shades of grey. Moral choices carry with them their own rewards and often you can't really say what is "the good" or "the evil" option simply because of all the grey in there.

Now, Mass Effect's Paragon/Renegade is a good system because it doesn't go after the traditional Good/Evil but rather it makes the things more personal. Paragon is generally close to "good" but Renegade isn't necessarily being "evil". The two are just personal choices Shepard can take, sometimes it's better to not play by the rules, sometimes the rules just get in your way. But the system still has it's downside - ranking it. Well, ranking isn't too bad by itself but when you have to get one of the ratings to the maximum (or whatever rating it was) to max out the social skill, then it breaks down because it no longer gives you the freedom it intended. The player may fin themselves thinking "Well, on the one hand I really want to flip this guy off because he's annoying me, but on the other hand, I need those Paragon points to max out Persuasion." And here lies the problem - the personal choices devolve into something else and no longer serve their intention. No longer even being "moral" choices - they turn into just another pool of pure mechanical representation. Nothing more than hitpoints or DPS - the player will just strive for the optimum, rather than whatever feels most comfortable.

And also some of the Renegade choices fucking suck. "Oh you're randomly being a jerk here, let me fill your red meter." But the same can be said about other morality systems - the "evil" options are sometimes nothing more than being extremely dickish. I tried playing a Lawful Evil character in NWN 2 but the representation of that was just fucked up. I wanted my character to maintain a facade of normality, while secretly being as evil as possible but it just didn't work. If he was to be evil, he would have skipped a lot of optional sidequests, because picking the evil option in dialogues 1. would guarantee the NPC wouldn't want to talk to them 2. were mind bogglingly stupid. I wouldn't play Lawful Evil if I picked even half of those, I would be playing Stupid Evil. Being a douche just for the lulz.

I like them when they are not a "Complete arsehole or Paragon of virtue shat by god" type of thing. One thing I do not like it's that most game developers judge me as evil even though I am just selfish (and yes, I admit it)

dessertmonkeyjk:
I've been fiddling around with this idea in my spare time but if each society (nation, town, clan, etc.) has a shared ideal of what's good and bad then that's how they'll judge your moral. Then there's the personal relationships which are more specific such as agreeing with a society standpoint but not on how they handle it. Then there's you. There is no true line of what is right or wrong when what you think is right will be considered wrong by someone else.

Now... how do we make a system for that in a video game?

(Hint: you need to be thorough)

It is rather easy, really. Also, really time consuming and hard.

EDIT: Damn, it came out a wall of text. I wasn't even really as thorough as I wanted to be. Sorry people, I'll try to add a TL;DR version.

Let's start with the first bit - society morals. Society is a bit misused here but let's go with that - by society we're talking about a group of people - be they the population of a city/country (it's just that fantasy countries either tend to be small, or take up all the space and just have diverse cities), or maybe the followers of a religion. As a whole the society has certain moral norms, let's say, for the sake of the example, that these norms are "Don't steal", "Don't kill" and "Don't disturb the peace"[1] (rather generic but easy). So the society would have laws to restrict these offences. Another society might have a different set of morals, for the sake of the example again, let's say it's the previous three, plus "Don't ride horses in the city." So, if we have both previous societies representing different medieval-ish cities, city A and city B will impose fines for different activities. That means that you can happily gallop though the main street of one on top of a horse, but the same act will get you fined in the other one.

This is an example of different morals of societies. Travelling to a different area (city/kingdom) will come with at least slightly different restrictions. But we can elaborate on this. There are different degrees of how "bad" each of the actions is. Let's assume that city A considers stealing a really big offence - on par with killing[2], while in city B stealing is a rather minor offence - the fine would be the price of the stolen stuff plus 10% on top. This gives more of a feel of difference to the different societies. And maybe some offences are considered really minor and aren't enforced by the law but people would just avoid you - maybe the "don't ride a horse" thing isn't a punishable offence but if you do ride a horse in the city, most people would avoid and not talk to you until you get down.

So, until now, we have a way to represent morality (only actual offences, more on the other part later) for different areas. While the cities (yeah, let's go with cities) may have uphold different morals, they aren't the only thing that comes under "society". So for our fictional example, let's add religion and a thieves guild. Each of these societies would have their own set of morals that could very well be different from the general ones.

Let's examine the religion first: maybe it could be considered a "good" religion, so the the general rules of the city are also their own - they don't steal or kill. They could have more harsh penalties for some offences, though, let's say you draw a weapon in front of their temple - the religious society would not appreciate that one bit. But aside from the current laws carrying different "weight", they also have some laws of their own - in addition to the normal ones, there is "do not cover your head in a temple"[3] - another different thing to distinguish a society.

And now how about the society of thieves? They would certainly not have the "don't steal" rule and can very well not conform to the city regulations at all. Let's assume that their laws revolve around "honour among thieves", so their rules are "Pay your membership tax regularly", "Don't kill another thief" and "Don't use bows"[4]. Obviously, the dissonance between their morals and those of the other societies conflict. And that is the beauty of it - it further distinguishes their societies and norms.

So those are all ways to shape the ethic outlook of societies. But what about actual, you know, goodness, not just the sins? Well it's not hard to implement, one way is to give benefits to those who keep to the rules - money, respect, housing - it depends on the society. Respect is the easiest to represent, so let's go with that. I rather liked what the Elder Scrolls did with the reputation (mainly Morrowind/Daggerfall), so why not have something similar - people have a certain amount of respect for you and if they consider you moral, they would respect you more. Aside from the pure laws, there can be other morals that aren't punishable but do make people respect you more or less depending on whether you uphold them or not. If the citizens of city A consider it good to always tell the truth, then in conversations lying can make you lose respect while confessing or uncovering lies can gain you respect. The religion, however, may have it's own virtues as would other societies.

...

So, that's about societies. Rather basic but it serves as an example. Society's morals are partly upheld by law and partly by respecting and liking those who they deem virtuous.

Now, for the next bit - personal relationships. Frankly, I didn't exactly catch what you meant, but I believe it's about specific NPCs views on morality. So, I will handle it as personal ethics for the other characters. Just give me a shout if you meant something else.

So, it is, well not too hard to do it, although there are some limitations (more on this below). First of all, not all NPCs will have the exact same moral values. Working within the framework we have, let's say that one NPC citizen has a really strict views regarding stealing. If they witness one, they are way more likely to report it, or perhaps outright attack the thief. In the case of the player, this could mean that they would report you no matter how much respect they've had so far for you. And perhaps the loss of respect would be greater in them, than other NPCs.

So far so good, but we could also have NPCs who are rather lax on some of the morality points, so another citizen could maybe not very much care if they witness stealing. This is a conflict between the society and the NPC, on the other hand. Similar to the real world, the NPC will have to choose exactly what to do. The easiest thing to do is to only report the crime, if there is a guardsman nearby or other citizens. If there aren't - then tough luck. Our "less moral" citizen walks of with clean conscious, so to say - society can't judge, if they don't know about the moral slip. Also, if they witness the player stealing, there may still be a loss of respect but a minor one.

NPCs with vastly different moral values than the others around them will be faced with a choices:
a) they grit their teeth, so to say, and continue living there. Depending on how different their morals are, maybe they can survive without getting into trouble. Or maybe they can't and will fall victim (figuratively or literally) of society's laws.
b) They leave and join a different society that better supports their views. So maybe somebody will join the thieves guild, if they don't believe in any of their city's morals. Or they could move to another city, if that would work. On the other hand, if an NPC values the moral laws highly, they could join the religion.
c) They become pariahs and just leave. They could just travel a lot or settle down away from other people, whatever makes more sense.
d) They band with other people with similar views (assuming there are any) and form another society. Maybe they start a religion or go and build a new village.

Well c) and d) are slightly harder to implement but that is because I'm rather vague there, if we can have some more concrete rules if there is an actual game we're talking about or we're creating one. But for now, it's just vagueness.

Finally, NPCs could very well have some moral views on their own, not just modification of the society's. One may view using bows as "sinful"[5] (assuming they aren't a thief, of course) and as such the player would lose respect with them over it. And so on and so forth - in short, NPCs could have some individual morality outside the society's.

But as I mentioned way back - limitations on the personal relationships. And that limitation is the respect. It could start to vary too wildly over sensitive matters amplified by personal views, or, if improperly handled, it could barely make a significance. It's not actually that hard to make the respect meter/value behave as intended, only the description so far is rather vague, we need something more final to do it.

...

And finally you. That is the easiest and simultaneously hardest part. It's easiest because you as a player are making the choices. Depending on the society, their morality views may make sense to you or they may sound like absolute bullshit. So you can choose to stick to the morality or not, maybe even find just play in a society where the ethics make sense to you. That's the easiest part. The hardest part is having writers who present actually sensible moral choices other than the typical "It was nice seeing you. Have a nice day!"/"Bye."/"I will kill your firstborn, drink the blood and rape the corpse!"[6]. So, in short - you choose your own actions, thus your own views on morality, but the choices you can make are limited by what the game offers you to choose from.

[1] For the sake of simplicity in video games, let's have that mean "don't draw your weapon in public"
[2] Why would that be? Exercise for the reader - there could be a lot of interesting reasons for that - maybe something to do with the mythology (say, if Eve is considered to have stolen the apple)or maybe it is a generally a poor but hard working region and stealing is not only a sign of laziness but it's could potentially really inconvenience the victim - making them work doubly hard to make up for the loss. Or something else entirely.
[3] Yes, "no hats inside". Just roll with it, I couldn't think of something better for the time being.
[4] Rather easy to implement in a game, that's why I chose it.
[5] OK, that ma not be the best example but it's just an illustration. I can't think of anything better at the moment. :(
[6] You know what I mean.

Something along the lines of Fallout: New Vegas' system, but with real effects.

Instead of having basically 'Good' and 'Evil' path I liked how depending on your choices you got a title for your behaviour, like my mainly evil character, I did some good and he gained the title 'Smiling thug' in a certain town, if that kind of inbetween could be translated to a game where these titles created consequences (I'm thinking something similar to the ending of Fallout 1 whereby if you have Bloody Mess you automatically kill the Overseer, though it would use your title to determine your action, etc). Maybe I'm just ridiculously ambitious.

Oh well, maybe if I keep these ideas through my Games Design and Programming degree I may actually be able to give them a shot...

i like how inFAMOUS did it. meaning the world around you reacted to you as opposed to maybe different dialog every so often to go ' oh, your an asshole' or 'stalwart hero of the land' like Bioware dose.

speaking of, your over all morality rating should effect your companions in a way you can't bribe out of, meaning, if i feed the soul of a child to a demon, i shouldn't be 1 or 2 shiny objects they like away from recovering the loss

So, many of you must be familiar with Echo Bazaar. In it you often take your actions blind to what the statistical effect will be beyond how it's described. As well the morality isn't cut and dry good and evil theres a spectrum of characteristics ranging from Hedonist to Melancholy. I like this way of going about it.

DrgoFx:
-snip-

Morality, as a subjective quality, is not really a great game mechanic. It should be more of a bonus, or a layer of complexity added to the game.

I like the morality systems in InFamous and Fable 1; the former because it adds a layer of complexity to both the mechanics and the story, and the latter because it allows greater customisation of your character[1].

I think it would be better, if you really wanted your choices to mean something in-game, to have a more fluid game world, where your choices are just choices (a selfish choice might actually help people in the long run, regardless of the fact that it was an 'evil' choice, and the reverse for a selfless choice). You could then have morality thrown in on top of that, just as a character extra to reflect how you've been playing, but being evil shouldn't cause towns to crumble, and being good shouldn't cause them to prosper, unless the actual actions that made you good/evil were such that they would cause such an effect.

[1] You could still be an arse without getting horns and what-not, but it wouldn't feel like you were being an arse so much as you were taking an alternative route

Honestly, technological limitations impede the implementation of a practical morality system. Its not really the horsepower though You can only script so much and that is a major element causing long developmental times is how complex scripting becomes. In order to pull off a proper morality system you would need billions and perhaps even trillions of script conditions compared to the tens to hundreds of thousands that were able to handle in a typical game. So from a technological standpoint, you would need the capacity for morality to be procedurally generated, much like were beginning to see in visual format (IE look at binding of Issac, or as an older reference, dungeons in Diablo)

So, your not really getting the entire newspaper (You know kids, that "device" people used to learn current information from back before your Ipad programs and wikipedia) Only the headline three articles and maybe half the funnies.

Frankly, just giving people the choice between being this guy or this guy is pretty dumb. It doesn't make sense in a situation where you've got lots of morally grey options (case in point, FO3's "Karma" system, which was even worse in NV), and when it does make sense, it's just cartoonish.

The player should be given choices, and decide on them based on what they think is right, not some predetermined definition of what's "good". Other people have said it in this thread, Deus Ex had it right.

I kind of like Far Cry 2 as far as a morality thing would go. You aren't so much using a "Good/Evil" axis, since, well, I don't believe evil really exists outside of sickly romanitisized settings like Starwars where the "bad guys" do it FOR THE EVULZ LOL. Instead, the game simply tracks how notorious you are among different factions or socially connected groups of people and the manner in which you're notorious.

Alright, here we go: The game would track how notorious you are for each faction, and the manner in which you're notorious, in a way similar to the class progression of Amular (sp?): Combat, Stealth and, one for a more social, not-physically-killing-them way. If you simply fight and kill people in a specific faction, they view you are a regular ol' killer who'll gun you down in the streets to get his way. If you were to, say, sabotage the gear of a faction and then stealthily kill the people who could fix the damage, they'll view you as a traiterous backstabber.
The point here is that the whole "morality meter" thing would actually change the way people would treat you. If you were to, say, gun down a high-up member of a faction in the street over a personal issue (They stole money from you, for example), you'd become a bit more notorious as a killer to those people and they'll try to keep a few extra guns around in case they give you cause to put bullets into them, but they won't assume you'll sneak in at night and slit their throat in their sleep. If you were to keep entering into deals with people, taking their goods and then skipping town without giving the agreed money, they'll stop trusting you to be involved in social dealings with them, but they won't expect you to kill them.
So, while you would be getting rewards for accepting quests that involve harming another faction, you'd also be losing trust with the factions you're harming and they'll adapt to try to keep it from happening in the future. If you keep taking missions that involve murdering important members of other factions, even if they don't go to the point of killing you on the spot, they'll make sure to keep guards and hired guns around when you're there. If you keep stealthily killing people for their stuff, those people won't let you around unwatched, and will try to keep from being left alone with you. If you keep screwing them financially or socially, they'll try to keep you from being involved with them in such ways.
This would make me happy for rpgs because it would stop people from being mind-blowingly narrow-sighted in some ways and absurdly paranoid in others, and would reward players for changing to fit the circumstances. Going to absurd lengths to backstab a key member of a faction when they view and treat you as an extremely dangerous assassin just because you've dumped all your stats into stealth-related areas would be much more difficult and carry less rewards than just walking up and shocking everybody by gunning him down in broad daylight. This would reward players for being flexible, and also reward players who wish to go for hard-core one-track play with more difficult, genre-savvie npcs.

TephlonPrice:
This is why I like Alpha Protocol.

There's no real clear-cut good choice, even it seems obvious. So every choice exists in a state of grey & it's only based on what you know & your past efforts & your associations.

If I designed a morality system, it's based around the fact that there's no real clear-cut choice & that every choice is one you would make. So if you screw someone over, it's because of a choice you made because of the situation warranting it & based on what you know, not just good or evil.

Of course what made Alpha Protocol work so well is that all those choices had consequences that changed the course of the story. Lots of games give you choices but they don't make a difference to the story.

I prefer games that give you a choice and then you can decide based on either your morality or what you think your character would do. No meter fills up, no horns grow, NPCs change their opinions of you that gifts can't change, no binary good/evil dialoque cues, different things happen based on what you did. Then you deal with it.

I'd prefer an "invisible morality system" where just NPC's react to your actions and there's no ingame karma meter or notification of "+10 bad points/good points."

DoPo:
Big fat snip of getting it down to a tee

O_O That's pretty much what I was talking about. I might make a little reference to that sometime.

BenzSmoke:
I'd prefer an "invisible morality system" where just NPC's react to your actions and there's no ingame karma meter or notification of "+10 bad points/good points."

Oh, I REALLY hate the whole rep notifications you get. Morality is supposed to be natural, not artifical. Now developers just need to find a way to show it with simple tell-tale signs of said moral standings.

dessertmonkeyjk:

DoPo:
Big fat snip of getting it down to a tee

O_O That's pretty much what I was talking about. I might make a little reference to that sometime.

Sure, have it all - clean it up, restructure it, change it, scrap it - whatever. I grant you full rights over it. The ideas are a bit rough and vague, as I said, as this was just a hypothetical example that pretty much had to establish everything on it's own to show how it works, and it established pretty generic stuff just for the sake of ease. If you want to discuss something more concrete, I'd be happy to.

DoPo:
long long long post

Actually, now that I think about it - a slightly easier to implement respect system: it combines the Elder Scrolls reputation with World of Warcraft reputation (and lots of other games that use it).

So, in WoW, the player has reputation with each faction. In ES, the player has reputation with each person. We can combine the two in the following way - a society as a whole has certain respect for the player based on how righteous they perceive them. But then, individual NPCs take that respect value and adjust it depending on their own views on morality.

An example: the player has respect worth of 80[1] in city A. This would be the respect the average citizens has for the player. But one NPC with a stricter moral code may have a respect of 70 because it doesn't view the player as moral enough. Another that sympathises with the moral choices of the player may well have a respect of 95.

Or something along those lines.

I can't think of a game that uses that "combined" system, but I can't imagine I'm the first to propose it - there is bound to be a game that has it.

[1] Those would be "respect units" of some description. For the sake of the example, I will not bother with what the maximum value is. Let's assume 80 is "good".

A morality system should not have specific 'Good' and 'Bad'

It should have a blurred line in which you are not marked 'Good' or 'Evil', instead you just see what your choices do

DoPo:
No, the nine D&D alignments aren't good (lowercase 'g' there). Nor is any other morality system that basically emulates them (a lot of them). I'd rather morality be non-existent (as in "not visible and measured") than being stuck with a stupid system like that.

Why it's stupid? Well, D&D's system only works for D&D and people have to understand that. In D&D morality is objective - there are literal forces and planes of Good, Evil, Neutral, Lawful, etc. It is external. If you say somebody is Evil, then they are Evil, not somebody who has the greater good of mankind as their ultimate goal. The reason is simple - because it can justify killing things easier. If you say "this necromancer is Evil" it is really easy to then just murder them. No, the necromancer doesn't need patience and understanding to turn from his ways of black magic - he wants living things to suffer that's his goal. That was the entire goal behind the alignments system - to simplify the morality.

With that in mind, you can see why it's bad to emulate that - it means that morality is objective, i.e., it's governed by external things rather than personal motivations. So the games that use that oversimplify the things and render all moral choices shallow.

DA:O is a good example where the morality is removed and it works. You can tell who of your companions is basically a good guy or not. They have their own beliefs for what is right or wrong but still some are genuinely better than the others. Your own choices aren't ranked and scored but you can still see what is generally good or bad - you can be a total dick to the guy who killed your family, because Fuck. That. Guy! He killed your family, he doesn't deserve pity (perhaps)! So you can be totally evil on his ass but still overall a good person to everybody else. And you aren't penalised for that. The morality choices carry their own reward or penalty, so you can still have the character you want.

Another good example is the Witcher - in that case a D&D style morality just doesn't work, because the whole universe is in just shades of grey. Moral choices carry with them their own rewards and often you can't really say what is "the good" or "the evil" option simply because of all the grey in there.

Now, Mass Effect's Paragon/Renegade is a good system because it doesn't go after the traditional Good/Evil but rather it makes the things more personal. Paragon is generally close to "good" but Renegade isn't necessarily being "evil". The two are just personal choices Shepard can take, sometimes it's better to not play by the rules, sometimes the rules just get in your way. But the system still has it's downside - ranking it. Well, ranking isn't too bad by itself but when you have to get one of the ratings to the maximum (or whatever rating it was) to max out the social skill, then it breaks down because it no longer gives you the freedom it intended. The player may fin themselves thinking "Well, on the one hand I really want to flip this guy off because he's annoying me, but on the other hand, I need those Paragon points to max out Persuasion." And here lies the problem - the personal choices devolve into something else and no longer serve their intention. No longer even being "moral" choices - they turn into just another pool of pure mechanical representation. Nothing more than hitpoints or DPS - the player will just strive for the optimum, rather than whatever feels most comfortable.

And also some of the Renegade choices fucking suck. "Oh you're randomly being a jerk here, let me fill your red meter." But the same can be said about other morality systems - the "evil" options are sometimes nothing more than being extremely dickish. I tried playing a Lawful Evil character in NWN 2 but the representation of that was just fucked up. I wanted my character to maintain a facade of normality, while secretly being as evil as possible but it just didn't work. If he was to be evil, he would have skipped a lot of optional sidequests, because picking the evil option in dialogues 1. would guarantee the NPC wouldn't want to talk to them 2. were mind bogglingly stupid. I wouldn't play Lawful Evil if I picked even half of those, I would be playing Stupid Evil. Being a douche just for the lulz.

To me, the Mass Effect system works for a couple reasons, you having listed the first one. The second is that there are dialogue options Shepard only even thinks to say if he's righteous enough or badass enough. What a lot of people don't get, especially with the endings of 3, is that Shepard is not the player in the same aspect as the Warden from DA:O is the player (and that game only technically had 2 endings despite greater interactivity). No matter what the player chooses, Shepard is thinking all the options on the wheel. What the player decides is whether Shepard will choose to act on the righteous thought or act on his impulses and be a badass, whether to be inquisitive or impatient. That is why a dialogue option you don't have enough points for isn't selectable; it's the option that would be there, but you've influenced Shepard enough that he doesn't think it. In ME2's quick time events, it's Shepard who's itching to act on those prompts. As the player, it's not your choice to be in that situation, it's your choice whether Shepard will act on that thought or not.

Aircross:
What I liked the most about Deus Ex (played it for the first time last summer) is that your decisions are not divided into "good" or "evil" and, and the developers didn't label them as such.

I say, can the morality system and morality bars and just have actions and consequences.

Which Deus Ex? I've only played HR, and I have to say its dialogue is MILES ahead of Mass Effect. Its all about convincing the person into saying what you want to hear, instead of:

A. Punch face in, demand answer
B. Kiss ass, handed answer

People aren't black and white, and I don't think the renegade/paragon system works in anything but Star Wars, because light and dark side ARE that extreme.

Just my opinion, but I like Dues Ex HR better than Mass Effect, but thats completely unrelated.

These are hard to implement well which is why there are usually stark good vs evil options. Sometimes a "neutral" version is thrown in as well. Often these feel very artificial which is why I don't often like them.

However I always enjoyed the Witcher games. Rather than focusing on morality options they went with choices that were more dilemas. Often the choices represented things you, as a player, would like to take and knew that choosing one would shut off the other options.

Nieroshai:
No matter what the player chooses, Shepard is thinking all the options on the wheel. What the player decides is whether Shepard will choose to act on the righteous thought or act on his impulses and be a badass, whether to be inquisitive or impatient. That is why a dialogue option you don't have enough points for isn't selectable; it's the option that would be there, but you've influenced Shepard enough that he doesn't think it.

Yes, that might be the intention but it falls short because instead of presenting the player with more (more personality for Shepard), the game puts a straightjacket in him. Only loosening the straps when the player behaves as intended (i.e., gains particular reputation). The player is forced to work towards being a jerk (because of the annoying tendency of some renegade responses to be the douchebag answer) or a saint in order to unlock the potential for more of Shepard's personality.

Morality should be a guideline, not a restriction. Even good people can take wrong steps, and even the bad can have heartwarming moments. This is what makes us human - we try.

But assuming the we want to keep a system that shows how Shepard's thoughts change through the games, how about we reverse it - like Bloodlines does. Well, WoD but we're talking mainly video games. Anyway, in Bloodlines, the vampires have Humanity - how, well, human they act and feel. It's a score from 1 to 10 and going further down means that the vampire gives into its more impulsive, more bestial nature and gradually stops feeling for others. It's a gradual downward spiral unless a lot of effort is put into maintaining it. Ugh, yeah, at any rate, in Bloodlines as the Humanity decreases, the possible responses get more and more...savage. More brutal. At some point it gets hard to be nice to people. At some point the traditional nice/neutral/snark/(let's talk more) responses lose the "nice" option unless you really try. At one point you talk with a girl who is really sick and about to die but still inquires after the man she likes. If you have high Humanity, you can lie to her and tell her he is fine. A vampire with low enough Humanity, however, can only insult her, tell her the truth thus making her final moments bitter and painful. There is no nice choice - the vampire simply does not care enough to be nice. And conversely, if the player has high enough Humanity at one point, they have the option of not giving in to their savage nature and attacking an innocent. Low or even average Humanity simply don't have a choice.

So, why couldn't this work in ME? Shepard can be impulsive or patient, but let their impulsiveness out too often slowly they would lose patience as a virtue. And vice versa - learn to be patient and slowly they will weed out their impulsive nature. Perhaps, the opposite choices will become harder to access, having to go through one or more submenus to get to them, representing how those aren't immediate choices. Maybe they would plainly not be an option in some conversations and in others Shepard may need to go through a round or two of talking to get to them: if Renegade - to cool down and have the chance to think rationally, if Paragon - to do the opposite and get his blood boiling. Or something along those lines.

But I don't really support restricting the players the way ME does it. In Bloodlines it makes sense because that's what vampires are - they are walking cadavers who suck the blood of the living. Predators, monsters and damned. Only if they keep believing they aren't, can they keep their instincts at bay. But Shepard is human - they can make mistakes, act reckless or they can force to restrain themselves. As a player I hate being (effectively) told "Sorry, not enough red bar hight to choose the impulsive, primal option. Try again later after insulting several individuals." Or "Sorry, you haven't donated enough money to charity to choose the well thought out and sensible response."

Any 'moral' system where there is no clear cut good or evil option. Alpha Protocol is one. New Vegas is another. I'm sensing a pattern...

I like Fallout's system, except for FO3, where it's your reputation with the various factions that matters and your karma is only used in a few things.

Also, the Geneforge series uses only reputation system with no morality and I think that's probably the best system.

the best system i have encountered so far was probebly DA:O with having your companions reaction to actions you do be the feedback you get from choices

Problem is, what good and evil is, generally relies on what society thinks of the actions one takes. So the only way to create a realistic morality system, is to have the world react to decisions that are made by the player on a case by case basis. Such as who we attract to follow us, and who we lose as companions and who we make enemies with, and most importantly, how MANY times we make questionable decisions.

Morality in games is often one dimensional because they force you to either be a saint, or a evil bastard or you don't get the goodies. Which in a sense, restricts you from actual moral choice. Moral choices tend to fluctuate from decision to decision, because morality isn't exactly a black and white affair.

Take Mass Effect for instance, most decisions Shepard makes have nothing to do with morality. It has to do with influence. Sure, they may give you a moral decision to make from time to time. But if someone is being over-sensitive and I choose to slap them around to get their head on straight, WHY is it regarded as a bad "moral" decision? Or even if it was a bad moral decision why does it have to have negative consequences? And why do I have to be a Paragon or Renegade in order to get certain special wheel options? And those wheel options sometimes can effect whether or not you can have the extra special awesome decision that everyone is happy.

The only way I could see to implement a true morality system, is to define morality for each NPC. What is important to them, and how much they are willing to see what is important to them be compromised and how much influence you can hold over someone by manipulating them. But to tie morality systems with certain items, powers, or goodies, cheapens the experience.

Don Savik:

Aircross:
What I liked the most about Deus Ex (played it for the first time last summer) is that your decisions are not divided into "good" or "evil" and, and the developers didn't label them as such.

I say, can the morality system and morality bars and just have actions and consequences.

Which Deus Ex? I've only played HR, and I have to say its dialogue is MILES ahead of Mass Effect. Its all about convincing the person into saying what you want to hear, instead of:

A. Punch face in, demand answer
B. Kiss ass, handed answer

People aren't black and white, and I don't think the renegade/paragon system works in anything but Star Wars, because light and dark side ARE that extreme.

Just my opinion, but I like Dues Ex HR better than Mass Effect, but thats completely unrelated.

I was talking about the first Deus Ex, but you're right, both games (to me) had better writing than Mass Effect, and both games allowed you to solve objectives in more different ways other than shooting or talking.

DoPo:

Nieroshai:
No matter what the player chooses, Shepard is thinking all the options on the wheel. What the player decides is whether Shepard will choose to act on the righteous thought or act on his impulses and be a badass, whether to be inquisitive or impatient. That is why a dialogue option you don't have enough points for isn't selectable; it's the option that would be there, but you've influenced Shepard enough that he doesn't think it.

Yes, that might be the intention but it falls short because instead of presenting the player with more (more personality for Shepard), the game puts a straightjacket in him. Only loosening the straps when the player behaves as intended (i.e., gains particular reputation). The player is forced to work towards being a jerk (because of the annoying tendency of some renegade responses to be the douchebag answer) or a saint in order to unlock the potential for more of Shepard's personality.

Morality should be a guideline, not a restriction. Even good people can take wrong steps, and even the bad can have heartwarming moments. This is what makes us human - we try.

But assuming the we want to keep a system that shows how Shepard's thoughts change through the games, how about we reverse it - like Bloodlines does. Well, WoD but we're talking mainly video games. Anyway, in Bloodlines, the vampires have Humanity - how, well, human they act and feel. It's a score from 1 to 10 and going further down means that the vampire gives into its more impulsive, more bestial nature and gradually stops feeling for others. It's a gradual downward spiral unless a lot of effort is put into maintaining it. Ugh, yeah, at any rate, in Bloodlines as the Humanity decreases, the possible responses get more and more...savage. More brutal. At some point it gets hard to be nice to people. At some point the traditional nice/neutral/snark/(let's talk more) responses lose the "nice" option unless you really try. At one point you talk with a girl who is really sick and about to die but still inquires after the man she likes. If you have high Humanity, you can lie to her and tell her he is fine. A vampire with low enough Humanity, however, can only insult her, tell her the truth thus making her final moments bitter and painful. There is no nice choice - the vampire simply does not care enough to be nice. And conversely, if the player has high enough Humanity at one point, they have the option of not giving in to their savage nature and attacking an innocent. Low or even average Humanity simply don't have a choice.

So, why couldn't this work in ME? Shepard can be impulsive or patient, but let their impulsiveness out too often slowly they would lose patience as a virtue. And vice versa - learn to be patient and slowly they will weed out their impulsive nature. Perhaps, the opposite choices will become harder to access, having to go through one or more submenus to get to them, representing how those aren't immediate choices. Maybe they would plainly not be an option in some conversations and in others Shepard may need to go through a round or two of talking to get to them: if Renegade - to cool down and have the chance to think rationally, if Paragon - to do the opposite and get his blood boiling. Or something along those lines.

But I don't really support restricting the players the way ME does it. In Bloodlines it makes sense because that's what vampires are - they are walking cadavers who suck the blood of the living. Predators, monsters and damned. Only if they keep believing they aren't, can they keep their instincts at bay. But Shepard is human - they can make mistakes, act reckless or they can force to restrain themselves. As a player I hate being (effectively) told "Sorry, not enough red bar hight to choose the impulsive, primal option. Try again later after insulting several individuals." Or "Sorry, you haven't donated enough money to charity to choose the well thought out and sensible response."

You make an excellent point overall, but I feel in ME in specific as opposed to VtM, DA:O, et al, you are not RPing your own custom character; you are playing as Shepard, basically more of an interactive Master Chief. It's less restricting their ability to RP in an RPG and more allowing a few RPG elements to slip into an interactive shooter. I will give a shoutout to Deus Ex HR, which is what Mass Effect 3 should have emulated I suppose, for locking certain endings unless you did a certain something. But that came down to a console with 2-5 buttons on it depending on how much of a completionist you were and regardless of your moral choices. In fact, the DE:HR endings actually do worse what people are crying out about with Mass Effect. You just complete all missions in the game, and regardless of alignment, you can push any of the buttons and watch a film reel of starving African children with different voiceovers. Not that I'm justifying this in any way.

 

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