THESE FORUMS NOW CLOSED (read only)

  • 16 Apr 2024, 17:04
  • Welcome, Guest
Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  
Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: On Good and Evil in videogaming  (Read 4662 times)

Alex C

  • comeback tour!
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5,915
On Good and Evil in videogaming
« on: 03 Nov 2008, 23:36 »

I hear ya.

It particularly drove me nuts in Jade Empire, since they bullshitted so much about how the alignment system wouldn't be the same as the Light/Dark side dichotomy they had in KOTOR. It started out OK, and even sounded pretty cool, in theory; the old master of the Closed Fist at Tien's Landing made it sound like it was a system that prized self-interest and relishing challenges. He said that by Closed Fist standards, being purely altruistic was considered foolish; if you learned or gained nothing by helping someone out, you were actually doing more harm than good, since you were denying them the opportunity to learn for themselves and gain strength. So, in theory a Master of the Closed Fist might not help a villager get their cart out of the mud but he might consider defending the villager from attackers if he felt he had something to gain by doing by doing so, even if that something was just an opportunity to practice his ass-kicking skills.

In practice though, the game totally dropped the ball. The Open Palm was the light side and the Closed Fist ended up as the dark side. There were even examples where you had 3 options: Help people for nothing, help people for something, or just viciously screw people over for no god damn reason. Often only the third option gave Closed Fist benefits. It was super lame and made me feel hella disappointed.

I know I've pointed it out before, but I still feel like the first half of KOTOR 1 was a case study in how NOT to handle villainy followed by a second half that was almost shockingly fulfilling as a bad guy. Prior to the Leviathan, being a Sith just seemed to mean being rude and shaking people down for their lunch money. Post Leviathan, you had an agenda, motivations and a genuine grievance against the Jedi to pursue if you wanted. I actually started out that game as Yahtzee's stereotypical virtuous flower child and ended it as Dark Lord of the galaxy.
« Last Edit: 03 Nov 2008, 23:45 by Alex C »
Logged
the ship has Dr. Pepper but not Mr. Pibb; it's an absolute goddamned travesty

Chesire Cat

  • Scrabble hacker
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1,363
  • Standing proudly behind unpopular opinions
On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #1 on: 04 Nov 2008, 10:24 »

I find the notion of being a bad guy quirky at best:

1. First of all, its at odds with how I learned to win at video games, completing everything.
2. In games that offered more than one choice generally it was a pittance to be had up front for being a prick, but a fortune if you stayed the course
3. You dont act as a truly evil person would, you generally act as a petulant sociopath
4. In the realm of suspended disbelief, acting like me only a little nicer and a little tougher, and the hero to EVERY GODDAMN CARTOON IVE EVER SEEN is alot more natural than acting like some kid who watch Saw too many times in a world with no law enforcement. 

I just couldn't make playing it feel real.  No internal motivation to being the villian, no character motivations to be evil.  Its like you have to write in an evil (immoral) main char to the story to make it work a la GTA.  Otherwise in history and literature, when someone kills everyone in a single village, its not,  "just cause I felt like it".  In reality its party of a greater plan, be it forming a government which dude-guy as leader for life or whatever.  The games make evil seem petty, and good be noble. 

It seems Petty Vs Noble is a pretty easy choice when you are doing it inside a video game, and most of the day to day stuff involve killing a bad guy for a good guy and generally playing the game.

*edit*

I lost my focus like 19x during this post, sooooo if it doesnt make sense, build a bridge... get over it.
Logged
"In this zero sum game everything given to another, reduces me"

Jackie Blue

  • BANNED
  • Born in a Nalgene bottle
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3,438
  • oh hi
On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #2 on: 04 Nov 2008, 14:32 »

3. You dont act as a truly evil person would, you generally act as a petulant sociopath

Nail on head there.  I have no problem doing "evil" things in GTA games because they're written in such a way that, while to varying degrees the main character is usually a pretty bad guy (though the protaganist of San Andreas was actually a pretty "good" guy) they always go out of the way to humanise him (Niko is a great example of this, and the main complaint I have with GTA4 is that there aren't enough missions where he shows his character).
Logged
Man, this thread really makes me want to suck some cock.

est

  • this is a test
  • Admin emeritus
  • Older than Moses
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 4,157
  • V O L L E Y B A L L
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #3 on: 04 Nov 2008, 17:55 »

I have split this out from the Zero Punctuation thread because I thought it was worth breaking out on its own.

For the most part games seem to cater for "overly heroic" and "unremittingly evil".  As some of you have already said I'd love for there to be more shades to their system.  I would love to play a self-interested character, and for the most part when given a sandbox game I will, especially if the plot is shit.

For example, in Oblivion I ran through the first dungeon thing and once I got out in to the world what you're expected to do (I guess) is to run straight to the town they asked you to go to in order to report the Emperor's death and start the main quest.  I had very little interest in that shit, because with the whole "you're a prisoner and the guards treat you kind of badly" thing I didn't really feel much driving me to help these fuckers out.  So instead I went treasure hunting and killed a bunch of folks and got myself a bit more well-equipped before going to see what all the fuss was about.  Even once upon the proper main-quest path I only did it half-heartedly, preferring instead to dungeon crawl, roam the wilderness and do side-quests.

Sure, the game let me do it, but it didn't feel right.  The main quest line was all "rush rush rush, this is terribly important", but they did not bat an eyelid when I went wandering into the wilderness and only certain scripted events made the plot advance.  I am not really sure that there was a viable option for a truly evil character in that game, as the stealing/stealth/resale of goods and the faction system was remarkably badly implemented.  In much the same way, I think that choosing to be a self-interested, or almost disinterested character did not advance the plot at all and left you with a much less rewarding experience.  If the game provided more incentive to go through the quests, or if the game world in some way changed due to your lack of action (ie: the bad guys actively come after you to retrieve the royal items, or you see more and more demons to the point of you being required to take action in your own self-interest) then it would have been a lot better.
Logged

Chesire Cat

  • Scrabble hacker
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1,363
  • Standing proudly behind unpopular opinions
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #4 on: 04 Nov 2008, 18:18 »

I think Oblivion took an idea that theres only two types of characters in game, NPCs and the Player.  The player is inherently heroic, but you can do good or bad things along that scale.  A good hero, or a bad hero, but a hero nonetheless.  And for that matter, most hero/villain games take that approach.  I guess being a hero in inherently noble and solitary whilst a villain is alot more multifaceted.  And growing up we watch cartoons that instill this in us via countless cartoons with a small cadre of good guys and a villain hierarchy with countless henchmen.  But the world in which those occupy revolve soley around the good and the evil characters.  A villains role is very slow and plotting, a hero acts very reactionary.  They just simple dont lead to comparably fun experiences.

In a game that really makes evil work, it needs to be very fleshed out and autonomous.  There needs to be very real reactions and consequences to your actions, generally a video game character fights an uphill battle against a seemingly omnipotent.  I really dont see how it can be done more than superficially, and since I dont see it being done well as a reasonable expectation, Im willing to offer game manufacturers a decent amount of leeway.

Though one game that I think does a fairly good job of making it possible and mediating the rewards for this good vs evil hero is Bioshock.  But alot of that is due to the closed nature of the workspace they have to work with.  There are no cops, theres no one to punish the wicked (kinda the problem to begin with) so it does leave with with two decisions, one clearly moral, another clearly immoral.
Logged
"In this zero sum game everything given to another, reduces me"

Alex C

  • comeback tour!
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5,915
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #5 on: 04 Nov 2008, 20:17 »

I think a large part of the issue is the simple fact that it's hard to accomodate two different mindsets within the same game without a huge and carefully written script (or, lacking that, a lack of direction in general). For example, Planescape: Torment was a game you could be a complete dick in and still have things make sense. The quest involved was a largely personal one and being evil could even make sense within the greater context of the Nameless One's backstory; if anything, being virtuous was an anomaly for the character, not self-interest. Again, it comes down to a matter of motivation for me; if you're only going on some quest to save the kingdom/galaxy/whatever because it seems like the nice thing to do, why is your character such an asshole the rest of the time? Planescape sidesteps this issue by letting you be in it for yourself if you so choose.

Brian Clevinger of 8-Bit Theater has apparently been pondering this subject as well lately, and rightly points out that part of the reason being a bad guy in Fable 1&2 works out OK is due to the lack of dialogue. Since you never have to explain your motivations to anyone the cognitive dissonance is greatly reduced simply because there is no way to be judge your PC by anything but his actions.
« Last Edit: 06 Nov 2008, 23:54 by Alex C »
Logged
the ship has Dr. Pepper but not Mr. Pibb; it's an absolute goddamned travesty

Dimmukane

  • Vulcan 3-D Chess Master
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3,683
  • juicer
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #6 on: 04 Nov 2008, 20:46 »

I think that games where the player has almost no dialogue just fare better in the morality game, because, like Alex said, there is only the actions of the player to go on.  But on top of that, there are the games which do or do not have a story that automatically makes you a hero.  Take Mass Effect: you're saving the galaxy, but ruining everyone else along the way.  You're being the cuntiest hero ever, but you're still a hero, because you're trying to save the universe.  Or take (again) Grand Theft Auto 4: Niko is given the freedom to be a total asshole, but the scripted story sequences show him as a definitive hero, albeit conflicted.  Then you take games like Bioshock and Fable, and to an extent, Fallout 3 (I think morality had a sizeable impact, at the least): Bioshock; you're trying to find out what happened to Rapture and how to leave, and your moral choice is simple.  Fable, you're trying to get/not get revenge on dubious characters, but there's no player dialogue, only player agreement and actions.  You can get evil revenge or good revenge, or let the guy go but still rule with an iron fist, etc.  Fallout 3, you're trying to find your Dad (I haven't finished this yet), the only moral absolute that the game forces on you is that you loved your mother and father.  Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer (IMO one of the finest written dialogue-heavy games), you're trying to do something about a presence inside of you.  You can get rid of it, or keep it and abuse it's power.

Logged
Quote from: Johnny C
all clothes reflect identity constructs, destroy these constructs by shedding your clothes and sending pictures of the process to the e-mail address linked under my avatar

Johnny C

  • Mentat
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9,483
  • i wanna be yr slide dog
    • I AM A WHORE FOR MY OWN MUSIC
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #7 on: 04 Nov 2008, 22:02 »

A good study in actual evil in games is Overlord, from what I understand. I played it at a friend's house and to do things which are the truest evil is actually really fucking hard. You have to genuinely think outside the box.

I ought to get that game for myself.
Logged
[02:12] yuniorpocalypse: let's talk about girls
[02:12] Thug In Kitchen: nooo

snalin

  • Vulcan 3-D Chess Master
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3,540
  • You may Baste me
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #8 on: 05 Nov 2008, 02:54 »

Overlord were good, but not in the choice area. And you were an evil overlord, yes, but you were (for the first part of the game I played through before my graphics card said "bye") fighting badder guys.

From the beginning it looked like the evil choices gave worse rewards than the good ones (100 normal life power thingies or the town loving you? I mean, the life thingies is just two slaugther runs through the sheep pens, and there you are), but there was some evil system where you got more evil energy or something the more evil stuff you did.

It's a good game, but I wanted to kill cute elves and righteous monks, dwarves drinking mead and mining and stuff. I mean, everyone was badguys! The elves Emo, the halflings were following this big, bad fat monster.

It was one of the better games when it comes to choice. But you know, there's still a way to go.
Logged
I am a cowboy / on a steel horse I ride
I am wanted / Dead or alive

axerton

  • Beyond Thunderdome
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 553
  • lets all grow pizza
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #9 on: 05 Nov 2008, 20:06 »

I think one of the best games where the good and evil story line co-exist is, for all it's other faults, kotor 2. Through the backstory you can see obvious reasons for being on both sides "I am a noble a virtuous Jedi, completely incorruptible, and the sith must be stopped, and I'll probably need help with that" or "Hey those bastards cast me out and cut me off from the force time to make them fellate my lightsaber" And up until the point where you're forced to make a choice between sides (quite early in the game, another good thing) you follow a neutral path - this is where many games make their mistake, the character is forced to play as a good guy then is given the choice to swap sides, as opposed to following a neutral path and being given a choice to go either way.

One thing I'd like to see in the future of choice in games is choice that isn't between good or evil and isn't even based on moral choices. For instance why not a game that depending on your choice of words or actions you could change peoples opinions about you, similar to the influence system kotor 2 had over your party members, but have it actually affecting the outcome of the game.
Logged
Guys guys I got this condition it is called "Involuntary Lottery Loser" guys don't laugh it is a disorder.

Stryc9Fuego

  • 1-800-SCABIES
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 874
  • Qualified Awesomeologist
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #10 on: 06 Nov 2008, 05:20 »

Here's a nice example for the Good v Evil bit:
Dwarf Fortress
[/size]

There are so many ways you can make a "Good" decision versus making an "Evil" decision, and the repercussions thereof. Do you continue to trade with the Elves, or lock them up uintil they go insane? Do you listen to their pleas to not chop down so many trees, or continue deforestation?

If you get useless dwarves, do you let them live and train them in a skill that'll be useful, or do you strip 'em of all their weapons and tell them to wrestle an elephant?

Would you meet your foes on the field of battle with honor, stay locked behind a wall and fill them full of bolts, or do you pour an entire lake of fiery magma on their heads?

With the Elf decisions, you can either continue to have a peaceful and profitable relationship with the Elves, or risk war. With your fellow Dwarves, you risk word getting back to your capitol that your fortress is a deathtrap, and they don't send any more Dwarves.

And with the war? Well, honestly, it all depends on what's most fun for you.  :wink:

Jackie Blue

  • BANNED
  • Born in a Nalgene bottle
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3,438
  • oh hi
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #11 on: 06 Nov 2008, 12:05 »

As someone else on here said, Dwarf Fortress isn't a game, it's a failure simulator.
Logged
Man, this thread really makes me want to suck some cock.

PizzaSHARK

  • Guest
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #12 on: 09 Nov 2008, 00:51 »

Not sure what the OP is referring to, since it lacks a quote, but there are very few games that offer an evil/bad experience on par with  the good or at least indifferent paths.

Tightly scripted games don't allow you to do much outside of their set path (example: you have to kill the bad guy.  Good motivation for doing this is because it's gonna make the world a better place, evil motivation might be because he stole something from you), while sandbox games that allow you to play as you want tend to become extremely boring very quickly - the GTA games and Oblivion are classic examples of this for me.
Logged

Melodic

  • Only pretending to work
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2,115
  • archive chin panties
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #13 on: 09 Nov 2008, 01:47 »

I realized that my reply to you was basically this entire thread, in under 6 paragraphs. Read the thread, dude.
Logged
And if you played too hard it'd flop out and dangle around by the wire and that is just super ugly

satsugaikaze

  • Vagina Manifesto
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 678
  • I LOVE BELL PEPPERS.
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #14 on: 09 Nov 2008, 20:49 »

You know what was even more tarded than the specific good and evil?

Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid (ie. the first game) said that it didn't exist and half the villains just said everyone was evil.

Go figure.
Logged

Thaes

  • Furry furrier
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 194
Re: On Good and Evil in videogaming
« Reply #15 on: 10 Nov 2008, 00:57 »

Overlord were good, but not in the choice area. And you were an evil overlord, yes, but you were (for the first part of the game I played through before my graphics card said "bye") fighting badder guys.

From the beginning it looked like the evil choices gave worse rewards than the good ones (100 normal life power thingies or the town loving you? I mean, the life thingies is just two slaugther runs through the sheep pens, and there you are), but there was some evil system where you got more evil energy or something the more evil stuff you did.

It's a good game, but I wanted to kill cute elves and righteous monks, dwarves drinking mead and mining and stuff. I mean, everyone was badguys! The elves Emo, the halflings were following this big, bad fat monster.

It was one of the better games when it comes to choice. But you know, there's still a way to go.

*ACHTUNG! THIS REPLY MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOLERIFIC*





Actually, as you proceeded in Overlord, the choices you made became far more clearly benevolent/evil, and evil choices actually seemed to give better rewards (if there was an actually reward). One of the most memorable choices was one you had to make after slaying the Dwarven king. Do you want to doom the entire elven race to extinction, or save them? Saving them doesn't seem to give any actual rewards, while dooming them gives you a big pile o' gold.
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up