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Thangorodrim

Quests with actual moral connotations

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What do folks think of quests with clear moral connotations, depending on the solution chosen?

 

- the Slaver quest in Fallout 3 where you can either kill the slavers or sell the former slaves to them

 

- Neverwinter Nights quest where you are presented with the "opportunity" to sell diseased blankets to orcs (I think it was) to subject them to a form of genocide

 

- your choices of disposition for Megaton City in Fallout 3 (Save it, Destroy it, leave it alone)

 

- Choice of siding with the Zombies or the Residents of Ten Penny towers in Fallout 3 ... although with the results, the morality of those two choices wasn't that stark a choice (more of a lesser of two evils)

 

Those are several that readily come to mind but I am sure there are many others. I actually like having the choice, even though I never play as an evil character so I never get to partake of the evil choices. Although I played through the Assassin's guild quests for Elder Scrolls Oblivion I actually found it somewhat distasteful that I only had the evil options available to me (but I just held my nose figuratively and soldiered on).

 

So what do other folks think? Lots of moral choices for standard quests, some evil and some good quests, or tons of both? And what about neutrality as a choice? I have never been much for this option and it is tough to balance in a game but I know some folks like that approach. Sorry, if this is addressed in another thread already.


Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” ― Robert E. Howard

:)

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I absolutely love these kind of things, especially if they affect the gameplay or story going forward. Adds for replayability, and makes it feel like my choices actually matter. Plus the harder they are to decide on, the more likely I am to wanna replay the game and see how it would have turned out if I went the other way.

 

<< Possible ME3 spoilers ahead: >>

Mass Effect 3 had me going for the longest time in trying to decide between Geth and Quarians, and once I found out I could save both by doing certain decisions in the previous ones, made me wanna replay them all to do so :/ heh. That said, it didn't feel as a big of a decision once you actually made it. Characters commented on it slightly here and there, but ****, that was just effectively planetary-scale genocide of an entire species. You'd think it'd be a bigger deal O.o

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Erm, it's been my experience that the vast majority of quests in games have moral implications, even if it's something as simple as "return the valuable gem to the starving widow" or "sell it for 15 gp".

 

I find I prefer it if the "good" choice depends more upon where you stand than upon conventional shallow ideas of good vs. evil equating to "save the baby" vs. "eat the baby".

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Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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I agree. I want more obviously good and evil decisions. Most games tend to give justification to the major evil decisions (if there are any). Or "evil" basically amounts to being a jerk.

 

With the assassin's guild in Oblivion, I felt they tried to make it palatable. It seemed like you were only killing other "bad" guys.

 

However, I also want moral quandaries that the player will struggle with. I have not found any game which had such a decision. Although, I tend to give my characters a code which they live by. That tends to make most decisions easy.

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"Eat the baby", huh?

 

I think that quest passed me by! XD

So you haven't played A Modest Proposal: The Game?

pft X3

 

Oooh don't you start: now you just know someone's going to make a thread to lobby for a baby-eating quest in PE! Or chain of baby-eating quests :p

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Oooh don't you start: now you just know someone's going to make a thread to lobby for a baby-eating quest in PE! Or chain of baby-eating quests :p

 

I'm tempted to do that now.

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However, I also want moral quandaries that the player will struggle with. I have not found any game which had such a decision. Although, I tend to give my characters a code which they live by. That tends to make most decisions easy.

 

I generally find the whole "moral quandary" thing to be incredibly difficult to implement well. If they give you a simple black-and-white choice (save the baby vs. eat the baby), there's no quandary. If they give you a choice between two bad things (kill innocent person A or kill innocent person B), it's still not a quandary because there's absolutely no criterion for deciding something like that. The best you can do is pick the one you like and move on. Oh, you can agonize over it if you wish but the end result will be as if you flipped a coin anyway.

 

If you really want to make the player squirm with indecision, you need to confront them with options that all have something positive going for them, but also all taste REALLY BAD. Do I violate my explicit orders and let this nice-seeming dude go? How do I know he's telling the truth about his lack of involvement? What if I know my boss is crazed for blood and plans to have these prisoners executed out-of-hand? What if the group he's with is guilty of some truly heinous crimes and they DESERVE to be executed out-of-hand? And then what you do is you hide information that the guy is ACTUALLY like the right-hand-man of the boss of this criminal organization you've just raided somewhere 14 levels deep in a really obscure and complex conversation chain with his ex-wife's sister three towns away. Only the sister clearly hates the guy's guts for leaving his wife so it may just be the venom talking . . .

 

It's even more fun if you make it so every new thing they find out makes the problem WORSE and not better. If you're in a nice mood you might put a tie-breaker in the game somewhere, but make it involve them running back and forth between 3 or 4 locations and reading people's journals or breaking into their home or something. Now THAT is a QUANDARY.

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Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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I generally find the whole "moral quandary" thing to be incredibly difficult to implement well. If they give you a simple black-and-white choice (save the baby vs. eat the baby), there's no quandary. If they give you a choice between two bad things (kill innocent person A or kill innocent person B), it's still not a quandary because there's absolutely no criterion for deciding something like that. The best you can do is pick the one you like and move on. Oh, you can agonize over it if you wish but the end result will be as if you flipped a coin anyway.

 

If you really want to make the player squirm with indecision, you need to confront them with options that all have something positive going for them, but also all taste REALLY BAD. Do I violate my explicit orders and let this nice-seeming dude go? How do I know he's telling the truth about his lack of involvement? What if I know my boss is crazed for blood and plans to have these prisoners executed out-of-hand? What if the group he's with is guilty of some truly heinous crimes and they DESERVE to be executed out-of-hand? And then what you do is you hide information that the guy is ACTUALLY like the right-hand-man of the boss of this criminal organization you've just raided somewhere 14 levels deep in a really obscure and complex conversation chain with his ex-wife's sister three towns away. Only the sister clearly hates the guy's guts for leaving his wife so it may just be the venom talking . . .

 

It's even more fun if you make it so every new thing they find out makes the problem WORSE and not better. If you're in a nice mood you might put a tie-breaker in the game somewhere, but make it involve them running back and forth between 3 or 4 locations and reading people's journals or breaking into their home or something. Now THAT is a QUANDARY.

 

That sounds absolutely wonderful to me. Although without the tie-breaker. I agree that moral quandaries are hard to implement. But I think their sparsity is primarily due to only a minority of gamers actually wanting them in their games.

I have a tendency to expect something like what you wrote when "ambiguous moral decisions" are advertised in a game. Unfortunately, I am perennially disappointed. I hope that will change with this game.

Edited by HeedlessHorseman

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That sounds absolutely wonderful to me. Although without the tie-breaker. I agree that moral quandaries are hard to implement. But I think their sparsity is primarily due to only a minority of gamers actually wanting them in their games.

I have a tendency to expect something like what you wrote when "ambiguous moral decisions" are advertised in a game. Unfortunately, I am perennially disappointed. I hope that will change with this game.

 

I like to have the hidden tie-breakers because that way people who like to play games "clean" (that is, making the good or the bad decisions) can do so. That, and it actually makes people squirm MORE if they find the tie-breaker AFTER the fact. That, and the agonizing tends to get old on repeated playthroughs so it's more fun in my experience to think you can dispense with it easily.

 

Cause, see, THEN what you do is you NEST the quandaries. Suppose, based on the situation I outlined, that the tie-breaker reveals your questionable guy to be an undercover working for a benevolent group who lost contact and got trapped in with these heinous criminals. He left his wife because he feared his undercover involvement would result in harm to her. Pretty straightforward.

 

Now for the nesting. On playthrough 2 when you actually discover the vital piece of evidence and release the guy, he returns to his wife. And the malicious secret agency financing the heinous criminals kidnaps her, forcing him to spy on his bosses in the benevolent organization. All right, now you're like, rescue the wife, okay. Can do. Except when you get to her to rescue her, it turns out her kidnapping is a sham and she's actually converted to the bad guy side. She pleads with you to let her go because her exposure and death would be horrible on her husband. She promises she'll leave the country and never return. NOW what do you do? Do you let her go, hoping that this lying slitch will keep her word? Do you kill her, thus possibly making the husband hate you? Do you tell the husband? Will he believe you? SQUIRM BABY SQUIRM!!!!

 

Now suppose there's a tie-breaker to THAT situation in the form of a way you can arrange for the husband and wife to meet and let him question her much more thoroughly, revealing that her defection was the result of her contracting lycanthropy sometime earlier, which the Bad Guys had the means to cure. So you let her go.

 

However, if you do this, the Benevolent Organization that originally sent the husband undercover refuses to believe his story about why HE defected, because his only witness (the wife) has left the country under suspicious circumstances. So he gets kicked to the curb, loses his livelihood, and eventually commits suicide.

 

Aren't I just a fountain of delights. :D Just because there's a tie-breaker that resolves some questions, that doesn't mean it'll get you to a good outcome. Even just with these 3 nestings there are so many possible outcomes (particularly if you add sideways options like "turn the guy in but refuse to let him be executed") that knowing the truth won't necessarily help you decide what to do, possibly even AFTER you know what the outcomes are.


Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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The witcher 1 is one of the few games I've seen that really nails the morally gray quandry. Witcher 2 is almost as good, but not quite. Everyone has blood on their hands, each side can tell you a convincing tale about why the other side is wrong. In the end, you just have to choose the one you believe most or flip a coin. And then hours later they give you the cutscene on what happens. Is the town herbalist really an evil witch, cursing the town? Well the town is clearly cursed. But the pretty witch can tell you a convincing story about these ignorant superstitous townspeople. And the townspeople certainly are ignorant and superstitious, that much is plain.

 

[spoilers for witcher 1]

 

In the end you can either let them burn her at the stake on scant evidence or you can kill all the townspeople to save the "innocent" witch. And just to make it more sordid, you can exploit your situation to sleep with her before you save her. OR sleep with her and then betray her and let them burn her anyway!

 

[spoilers over]

 

Now that's nasty business. And its the same with a dozen other plot points including the main choice between two deeply flawed but idealistic factions. Its the only game I've seen do gray decisions right. I told a friend Witcher makes Bioware properties like Dragon Age and Mass Effect look like Disney plots by comparison.

 

And now that I've said all that, I often prefer my moral decisions at least a little more tipped than that. I like being heroic and playing _everying_ in sordid, murky shades of gray leaves me feeling kind of sickly after awhile. :)

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That's kind of what I said earlier, Jymm--when you know your options are all bad, you may as well flip a coin because there's no real criterion for deciding.

 

What makes you squirm is the belief that ONE of these options is a better choice and if only you knew just a LITTLE BIT more, you could figure out which one that would be. Even if that better is so narrow you could cut yourself with it.

 

Well, knew a bit more, or had some more time, or could get more bandages . . . nothing hurts like falling just short.

 

OMG I just described the freakin' election. So sorry.

Edited by PsychoBlonde

Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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Well, maybe that's why Witcher 1 works better than Witcher 2, IMO. Because in the first game you don't KNOW that all the choices are bad. So you sweat it more. Or at least I did.

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Honestly given the option I would prefer a lot more choices like the ones featured in Fallout: New Vegas, particularly which faction you side with in the ending.

 

We have the ability to deliver more complicated narratives in games now where moral and ethical dilemmas can be shades of grey rather than black and white without it being really ham-handed or forced. Caesar's Legion could be considered objectively morally evil, but their philosophy was something that could be understood and made sense as to why people would follow it, and they all thought they were doing what was Right. On the other hand, the NCR could be considered morally good, but Mojave denizens tended to paint them as an empire spreading too thin, with poorly managed and maintained good intentions that would end up screwing the little guy. Again, the NCR was doing what it thought was right and you could see how they thought it was right.

 

I had to think for a good few hours while not playing the game to decide who I wanted to side with, and who would do the most good for the Mojave--my motivation. Mr. House, the NCR and solo endings all had their pros and cons, but I ultimately decided that if neither would represent the common people and betterment of all, I'd just have to take over the Mojave myself and maintain its independence. Even after making that choice, the anarchy it wrought made sure not everything worked out for everyone entirely.

 

I loved that ending. I loved deliberating on it and having my views and beliefs challenged. I loved that even with all my good intentions even I was not the perfect wasteland-savior to make the Mojave an independent utopia, because somehow that made the choice far more satisfying. I got an experience out of these choices presented that could simply never be replicated with a clear Good, Neutral, and Evil set of options. I'd just pick Good barely thinking twice and that'd be that. It would be "I'm the good guy, I pick the good ending."

 

Instead, with New Vegas it was...

"I'm the guy that wants the Mojave to be a better place for everyone. I'm the guy who has helped the sick, the weak, and the poor of this land and touched every community I can to make this world better, from fixing water pumps to stopping massacres. While you all sat glaring at each other I've been all across this great land, I've seen crazed mutants, ghouls in rockets, cannibals in suits and the daily struggles of the average small town. I'm the one that knows what this land is about. I'm the one who knows what's best for this land. Not all of you, in your respective ivory towers. I'm the one who will make this land better, so I will ask you nicely once to get the hell out of my desert."

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Aren't I just a fountain of delights. :D Just because there's a tie-breaker that resolves some questions, that doesn't mean it'll get you to a good outcome. Even just with these 3 nestings there are so many possible outcomes (particularly if you add sideways options like "turn the guy in but refuse to let him be executed") that knowing the truth won't necessarily help you decide what to do, possibly even AFTER you know what the outcomes are.

 

Okay, I like that. I guess I tend to expect tie-breakers to end in everything being rosy. I do like the idea of ostensibly good options.

 

Although I still want choices without any factor that tips the scales in one direction. I don't think the majority of choices should be like this, just some of them should be. I am talking more about a moral quandary than an evidentiary one. The previous Witcher example seems like an evidentiary one. At the moment I cannot think of a good moral quandary, but if I think of one I will post it.

Edited by HeedlessHorseman

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I would like to see quests that have evil path to actually be evil for a change and not just be sorta bad, or just doing bad things only to evil people, or worse, the evil path is exactly the same as the good path most of the time, its just minor insignificant stuff that changed. Then there is also the dreaded grey paths which is becoming a fad in many games now where all choices are grey and they are not a good or bad path. That in itself is not bad when used sparingly, but when every major choice is like that, then you feel like your choices really do not matter since its going to be a 50/50 split of good and bad for either decision so might as well flip a coin.

 

Most games now are like:

Good - save the village by killing the dragon and bandits for free and be known as a hero

bad - kill the dragon and bandits, then demand payment from the village (Where is the actual evil bit?)

Grey - kill the dragon and bandits who were fighting the dragon take over the village and sell the villagers to slavery, kill the bandits and the dragon burns down the village and eats the survivors.

 

A lot of modern games are lazy and just suck.

 

 

The best games are the ones that give the most freedom to choose your paths, good paths, grey paths, and evil paths without forcing you down a particular road (at least not to often). The best grey choices are those that have loopholes to change the grey choice into a clear cut choice for players who were willing to spend time and effort researching the problem and finding another solution besides the only no-win solutions. It might take time and effort, but it is sooo rewarding when you come up with an alternative solution that was not presented before and works to your favor.

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Well, maybe that's why Witcher 1 works better than Witcher 2, IMO. Because in the first game you don't KNOW that all the choices are bad. So you sweat it more. Or at least I did.

Really? Because after 2 hours in I was hoping that I could kill everyone in the game, those people were awful.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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Since there is no alignment in the game, simple good vs. evil quests won't do the trick for me. I expect a lot more grey area stuff.

 

Even without formal alignment they could still do a mix of good, bad, and grey ... as you mentioned however, without alignment you might get more shades of grey ...

 

hopefully even without alignment they will have some measure of a character's "goodness" or "badness" ... whether they go the route of Karma or renown/infamy or something else it is useful to give characters actual moral choices with consequences (being good in Fallout 3 resulted in a bounty on your head from the 'evil' factions while being evil resulted in you being hunted by the 'good' factions - only by being neutral could you avoid the hunters) ... it also provides some nice gated quest opportunities (are you good enough for the priests to hire you for their quest ... are you evil/amoral enough to join the bandit or pirate gang or be hired by the evil magician) ...

 

another advantage of some form of alignment is it provides a penalty for just killing everything that moves ... PE isn't an FPS games .... although some characters are content to slay their way through the countryside leaving a red swath behind them, others enjoy a more nuanced playing style where killing isn't always the only or the best solution to a problem ... alignment of some sort makes it easier to measure where on the scale you fall, so that the other NPCs can react accordingly (do the woman and children run and hide when you enter a town or do they cheer the arrival of the party :) ) ... it is always good to have an adventuring environment that is big enough to accommodate your playing style whether you favor Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, or somewhere in between ;)


Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” ― Robert E. Howard

:)

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I like the way fallout new vegas handled it with reputation for specific locations depending on your actions.

I am not sure if karma systems prevent people from killing everything though, if they aren't somehow connected to the main plot (like villages and citires helping you at the end of the story depending on karma/reputation). If it is possible, then people will just make the quests and kill everyone after all quests are done for the loot. I am not saying they shouldn't be able to. I am just saying karma/reputationsystems do have to have some consequences till the end of the game.

Edited by Rink

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**** morals. Choices should be based on logic and the prospect of gain. You make a choice because it suits your ideals at the moment, not because it is the "right" or "wrong" thing to do. Sell slaves, give plague ridden blankets to orcs (incredible ****ing allegory there, ****), what is this high school English class?

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I like the way fallout new vegas handled it with reputation for specific locations depending on your actions.

I am not sure if karma systems prevent people from killing everything though, if they aren't somehow connected to the main plot (like villages and citires helping you at the end of the story depending on karma/reputation). If it is possible, then people will just make the quests and kill everyone after all quests are done for the loot. I am not saying they shouldn't be able to. I am just saying karma/reputationsystems do have to have some consequences till the end of the game.

 

I don't think the system can or should prevent certain actions ... I think it should just result in different game play results if you pursue a "kill everything on the map" approach vs a "rescue everything on the map" approach vs something in between ... whether the results of your actions are considered a penalty or reward largely depends on the player's perspective but I think actions should have results and actions that are grayer in nature should have results that are equally gray


Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” ― Robert E. Howard

:)

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**** morals. Choices should be based on logic and the prospect of gain. You make a choice because it suits your ideals at the moment, not because it is the "right" or "wrong" thing to do. Sell slaves, give plague ridden blankets to orcs (incredible ****ing allegory there, ****), what is this high school English class?

 

I think the amoral approach you suggest should definitely be an option but depending on your point of view certain actions can be considered distinctly more "right" or more "wrong" ... the difference between rescuing the Little Sisters in Bioshock and harvesting them is stark ... and there are different rewards or penalties for pursuing either approach (but they are both viable game play options that suit a particular playing style) ... I like to have a few choices in the game and consequences that are equally stark ;)


Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” ― Robert E. Howard

:)

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I like being able to make simplistic moral choices, but I like the difficult choices that much better yet.

The best I can immediately recollect was the one in one ME1 DLC (bring down the sky or something).

 

You'd be faced with a save the hostages vs kill the terrorist leader situation, where you'd have to choose

between preventing a dozen or so casualties right now, or probable much larger casualties sometime later.

 

Could be something to that effect, pardon the murderers if they help you save a bunch of people right now?

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