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View Full Version : How do we go "Beyond Good and Evil" in a more authentic way?



Kamitto
05-10-2018, 11:32 PM
This thread is intended to function like a "writer's room", wherein folks brainstorm and debate ideas about how to make a project better. The devs are clearly listening, so let's be very intentional about providing them with our ideas.

A persisting concern and critique of modern games is how they handle "good" vs. "evil", with respect to player choice, agency, and how that all changes the overall plot of the game. This has been a major challenge for developers, I think, because plot by definition is linear, going from point A to point B, but which in games diminishes the interactivity of the narrative. In another thread (https://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php?p=13474730#post13474730), Lyogron expressed concerns about BG&E2 in particular, which the devs seem to indicate will be rather binary: "play good" or "play evil".

Many games have done a pretty good job of balancing cohesive plot with player choice — like Bioware in the DA/ME series — which tends to look, rather than just A to B, more like A to E, with the possible intermediary points being something like B1, B2, C3, C4, D1, D4. Like a frayed thread. But regardless, you start at A and end at E. And maybe it's not just E, but E1, E2, and E3: which are just minor variations on E, like which characters survive.

It's a rare game like Chrono Trigger that has truly distinct endings, and even that was possible only after reaching the developers' intended/optimal ending and then doing an NG+. I think BGE2 can only really have one main ending, with slight variations, because it's a prequel and has to align with what was already established in the first game.

BUT…that doesn't mean that all the points in between can't reflect some really interesting player choices and agency.

In my next post I'm going to talk about Bioware, which I think comes to closest to balancing player choice and solid plotting, for the purpose of discussing how BGE2 might learn from what they did well, and where they could've improved.



In talking about Bioware, I wanna compare two franchises in particular: Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

Mass Effect uses the Paragon vs. Renegade system, which, while binary, did have some nuance in that the two did not exist on the same zero-sum scale. Meaning that a paragon act did not make you "less renegade". This was interesting, mechanically, but allowed for some character inconsistencies that made Shepherd seem, as Lyogron put it, "psychotic". Worse, in most cases, these inconsistencies didn't raise red flags for other characters. If I recall correctly, you seemed to gain or lose favor with different folks based on "how Paragon" or "how Renegade" you were. Or was it specific plot decisions that turned certain people against you? I forget. It's been many years.

Dragon Age, on the other hand — and here I'm going to talk most about DA2, which I think did it best — used a more modular relationship system, with every other character gauging your morality by measuring it against their own values. In other words, there was no overall "good" or "evil", "paragon" or "renegade", decisions, but more true to life, these things were relative. One person's "good" might be another person's "evil", or maybe they don't give a crap about that particular issue at all. DA:I had these same mechanics, but it wasn't as transparent.

In DA2, what was being measured was whether you were another character's Friend or Rival, and this had relatively little to do with your character's overall "morality". Also, being a rival did NOT mean you were an enemy. The very thing that Lyogron was criticizing, was addressed very well in this game, because you were actually rewarded, above all, for being consistent.

The best manifestation of this, in one of my DA2 playthroughs, was my Hawke's relationship with Aveline. My choices made us strong rivals, which meant that there was some bad blood, and many disagreements, but in spite of that, mutual respect. This is not my game, but here's a scene that I also experienced, based on my choices. This link is set to start at 1:37, which is the relevant bit.



https://youtu.be/xtMqWr8z-MU?t=1m37s
https://youtu.be/xtMqWr8z-MU?t=1m37s

Even without context, you can see that this relationship is complex.

So, for me, I think the balance between solid, cohesive plotting, and character choice/agency/impact has everything to do with the capacity for building complex relationships. In his post, Lyogron mentioned finding it hard to imagine some "evil" pirate giving a crap about Dakini and Pey'j, who very likely will be "good" (whatever that means in this game).

But even if the player-character's overall arc suggests they are more "evil", or maybe immoral or morally "flexible", if they have become close to Dakini and Pey'j, then it makes sense that they'll help them accomplish whatever non-negotiable plot objective that allows BG&E2 to align faithfully with the first game.

DevilmanSinner
05-11-2018, 05:32 AM
Kamitto is my favourite.

I think the modular relationship system would definitely work well in what seems to be BG&E2's plot since the characters would be able to react favourably or unfavourably to your actions while, perhaps begrudgingly, still working with you within the main plot that defines and ultimately concludes the story. I have no idea how your character exists in relationship to the main characters (are you an independent pirate who works alongside Jade, Dakini, Pey'j, etc? Or are you a fully inducted member of that crew?), but it seems to make more sense to have your actions as the playable character be individually interpreted by the main story characters. For example, it would be really interesting to come back to interact with Jade and Shani and Knox only to have them chide me for some raid I went on that disrupted a supply route they counted on (which might affect gameplay in a subsequent mission?).

I was watching a video a few weeks ago about why more games don't allow you to play as the "villain." The youtuber argued that it's hard to have a story where you play as the villain without writing a story in which you are convinced (even partially) of that "villain's" moral righteousness. Essentially, you're going to have to sympathise with your protagonist's cause in order to invest in their story; "villainy" and "heroism" are matters of perspective. To come back to Kamitto's point, by making main and supporting characters react in modular fashion to the playable characters actions, you can be fairly free in your actions while still fitting in the main plot and supporting narratives. Am I making sense?

To further this idea, I think it would be cool to have factions behave in a similar modular fashion, which I did make mention of elsewhere in this forum.

WiwarK9
05-11-2018, 10:04 AM
The youtuber argued that it's hard to have a story where you play as the villain without writing a story in which you are convinced (even partially) of that "villain's" moral righteousness.

What if you just want to be a **** ?

Kamitto
05-12-2018, 12:35 AM
To further this idea, I think it would be cool to have factions behave in a similar modular fashion, which I did make mention of elsewhere in this forum.

Yes, this is good. For the really important characters, you'd be assessed by each one individually. But minor characters can be grouped into factions, each of which sort of function the same as a "character" with respect to how your character is received. You gave that mafia pig dude the fake chocolate totem, and so his whole faction is furious with you. But maybe that same action gave you some brownie points with other pirate crews, among which you're starting to develop a reputation.


What if you just want to be a **** ?

Honestly, with the things that are censored on this forum, I have no idea what that word is supposed to be. But I'm gonna assume a word meaning total jerk.

Anyway, you wouldn't be limited in that. Except that if you're going to be a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk, that might come across as inconsistent or erratic. Because real people aren't actually trolls. They are complex, with their own motivations, biases, flaws, hang-ups, and so on. If you're being a jerk to one character in a way that aligns you with another, but then you turn around and are a jerk to that situational ally, then that's just not how people act. It wouldn't be in line with acting in your own best interests.

I think if you went into the game with that motivation, then the game should become extremely difficult, because you can't run afoul of the whole world and expect to accomplish anything.

devilmeetsvamp
05-12-2018, 02:11 AM
Yeah. It's all about how you're building your relationship with the environment and settings and the characters. The DA2 playthrough reminded of Ken Levine's lecture at GDC https://youtu.be/p40p0AVUH70?t=1593(The explaination of the photo is before the timestamp). Also in the last twitch they did they you could work for some corporations as the bad guy. I guess this game will offer independence as to our approaches but it will be really interesting to see if our choices are getting reflected as not just "what" we do but also to "why" we do it.

WiwarK9
05-12-2018, 10:24 AM
Because real people aren't actually trolls. They are complex, with their own motivations, biases, flaws, hang-ups, and so on.
Being a troll is also a personality on itself, having fun by creatng chaos and it's a game i want to have fun.

Kamitto
05-12-2018, 08:31 PM
it will be really interesting to see if our choices are getting reflected as not just "what" we do but also to "why" we do it.

This is an interesting thought, but I think it presents a game design problem that may be unsolvable. While we the players know the "why" of what we do, there is hardly a way for the other characters to know, unless there is some explicit dialogue around that.

And the player can only have that conversation with so many other characters. So this means the "what" will be paramount in the game assessing how the player's actions are perceived, with respect to all the other characters and factions.

DevilmanSinner
05-15-2018, 12:35 AM
Yeah. It's all about how you're building your relationship with the environment and settings and the characters...I guess this game will offer independence as to our approaches but it will be really interesting to see if our choices are getting reflected as not just "what" we do but also to "why" we do it.


This is an interesting thought, but I think it presents a game design problem that may be unsolvable. While we the players know the "why" of what we do, there is hardly a way for the other characters to know, unless there is some explicit dialogue around that.


I was thinking about this today, and I am surprised Dishonored hasn't already been referred as an example of how one could play in a certain way, with extreme moral questionability for example, but still navigate the entirety of the story. In the first Dishonored, the more violently you solved your "problem," your relationship with the world developed in kind. Kill more guards? More guards will patrol the streets. Leaving bodies exposed? More rats infest the city. Inversely, the stealthier you were, the calmer, cleaner, and less patrolled the city became.

For BG&E2 I think this presents a fair example of how to allow us to play however we want (villainous, heroic, neutral, conniving, etc) while still getting to the end of the game, which will essentially have to align with the lore set by BG&E1. Our actions change the world we play in, the characters relationships with that world, what's available to us, etc. And when it comes to the game recognizing our "why's," the devs could open up some dialogue options that offer the other characters a reason. Say we opt for scenario C during a mission and it upsets Knox a lot. The next time we interact with him, he asks you, "why'd you do that?" Something like this could also work with representatives of whole factions, for example if you double-cross a faction for whom you've done a bit of work. And those dialogue options providing scripted "why's" could even be circumvented by the classic non-response, which may or not make you look like a hero, villain, or obnoxiously impartial (or just plain obnoxious). It opens up the opportunity to also play as erratic and psychotically as one wants, I guess; if you're trying to play as the pirate version of the Joker I assume...which, if that's your cup of tea, that kettle is all for you.

Kamitto
05-15-2018, 01:03 AM
I was thinking about this today, and I am surprised Dishonored hasn't already been referred as an example of how one could play in a certain way, with extreme moral questionability for example, but still navigate the entirety of the story. In the first Dishonored, the more violently you solved your "problem," your relationship with the world developed in kind. Kill more guards? More guards will patrol the streets. Leaving bodies exposed? More rats infest the city. Inversely, the stealthier you were, the calmer, cleaner, and less patrolled the city became.


This sounds awesome. I never played the Dishonored games, purely because they were FPS, which is a POV I can't stand in games. I've concluded that it has something to do with not being able to see my own feet. o_O But this makes me want to reconsider.



It opens up the opportunity to also play as erratic and psychotically as one wants, I guess; if you're trying to play as the pirate version of the Joker I assume...which, if that's your cup of tea, that kettle is all for you.


I feel like there needs to be consequences for being too inconsistent. The moral equivalent to being a "jack of all trades, master of none", which essentially means you're garbage at everything. You're not cruel enough to be intimidating, and you're not kind enough to have any friends. So you end up not being able to convince anyone of anything, nor getting anyone to follow you anywhere, and live out your days as a useless background character, while Dakini and Pey'j go forth to face destiny. :rolleyes:

For me, this is about coherent narratives, and making things feel less "gamey".

DevilmanSinner
05-15-2018, 03:14 AM
I feel like there needs to be consequences for being too inconsistent. The moral equivalent to being a "jack of all trades, master of none", which essentially means you're garbage at everything. You're not cruel enough to be intimidating, and you're not kind enough to have any friends. So you end up not being able to convince anyone of anything, nor getting anyone to follow you anywhere, and live out your days as a useless background character, while Dakini and Pey'j go forth to face destiny. :rolleyes:

For me, this is about coherent narratives, and making things feel less "gamey".

I understand what you're saying now! So I understand your hesitance, but shouldn't that be the consequence if one plays so erratically? Even if you modulate the players actions for each character, behaving with such inconsistency should alienate your character from every other character and faction.

Kamitto
05-15-2018, 06:05 AM
I understand what you're saying now! So I understand your hesitance, but shouldn't that be the consequence if one plays so erratically? Even if you modulate the players actions for each character, behaving with such inconsistency should alienate your character from every other character and faction.

Yep, I think so. But trolly gamers would be maaaaaad.

DevilmanSinner
05-16-2018, 12:23 AM
There should be an option for those who want to be mayhem causers, Clown Prince of Crime-types, conniving double-crossers. Maybe if you play as more of a lone, double-crosser and upset and alienate everyone (or at least a sufficient amount of the main characters), at the point of the endgame, they just kind of abandon you because you're so disliked.

If we're trying to allow play that is significantly beyond good and beyond evil, maybe doing missions as a "troll" is tense, and at the end of the mission the rewards are more anemic and limited as the characters/factions withhold rewards since you're just...very disliked.


I think that that's fair...? That your gameplay style affects even the type of rewards that become available to you. Play as a villain, villainous characters/factions reward and favour you. Play as a hero, heroic characters/factions reward and favour you. Play neutrally, morally ambiguous and disinterested parties reward and favour you. Play erratically, and life is lonely and difficult. Fun is subjective, and playing erratically could at the very least be interesting so I am endeavouring to figure some way for it to be viable/playable.

AlexandaBleak
05-17-2018, 11:06 PM
Not sure ive seen this talked about so forgive me if im repeating someone else's thoughts.

one thing i would like to see is how the various factions react to the players actions, because a lot of "good" actions in the game are going to be very anti establishment so freeing hybrid slaves is a good thing obviously, but that's something the government won't like so do that enough and you get branded as evil and dangerous by the media but are loved by the people you sav, and vice versa a fair number of "evil" actions will be helping the government and because of that your treated like a hero, i guess what i'm saying is i want to see complex and realistic nuance in the reactions to your actions, if the government and media says your evil them mybie many of the people in the cities you travel through will be distrustful or fearful of you even if your trying your best to help them, that kind of thing.

Legion-495
05-18-2018, 04:26 PM
I really want a flexible faction system. One that doesn't totally start to deny one faction totally.
And I wonder if cities would be independent on that feature.
There should be no absolute like so many RPGs have.

On the good bad actions, I would think that dialog options may help to swing people your way anyway. If you somehow are able to justify stuff. And if that is behind a skill, it would be fine by me.
Not saying this should be the case for everyone you encounter. Furthermore, there should be enough crewmembers that favor each playstyle. Full on hybrid support, totally with the government or the middle route and being viewed as a mixed bag (Because probably not all government is bad).

Now I highly doubt the main story will change a lot, but you probably see a few things or way things end which one wants to avoid.
I am still on the losing a limb for a crewmember (or similar) or because someone didn't trust you in a critical situation. Stuff that impacts your character directly.
Side quests would be independent stories. We probably don't even need that if the side quests are extensive enough. A side quest should at the end have a permanent impact on the world so you can see it. At least for most of them.

It sure is complicated. I would not really tie loot to playstyles unless a mission gives you the choice with a notice of extra loot doing it a certain way.
Maybe if the RPG is strong in this one we could tie XP with playstyle, because someone who smashes everything down is probably way more likely to pick fights in this world anyway compared to someone who talks and sneaks his way through.


Maybe there should be a tutorial area in the game so you can basically start to get known to NPCs for everything you did in that area so the player has some kind of reputation to start from.
Writing this games quests sure is a lot of work xD

WiwarK9
05-19-2018, 06:47 AM
Maybe there should be a tutorial area in the game so you can basically start to get known to NPCs for everything you did in that area so the player has some kind of reputation to start from.

It would be interessting to have that system of reputation where NPC take the main feature of your character (exemple scars, missing limb, tatoo, etc) and can conclue that your are the famous el pirato.

Also your action and your reputation during the game can determine what type ofen member can enter in your team, if you are good, only nice hybrids and humans will want to join you and to make them come you should help them doing side quest or just speak to them,
if you are bad only hybrids who talk with their punch and who only understand violence can join you, and you should have to beat them during a fight or having somekind of accomplishement like destroying 100 police vehicles to earn their respect.

Each crew member however should be unique and have somekind of tolerance to your action per exemple if you are the worst but never hurt slave in anyway he will tolerate your action rather than accepting you as a leader.

Kamitto
05-20-2018, 08:21 PM
Not sure ive seen this talked about so forgive me if im repeating someone else's thoughts.

one thing i would like to see is how the various factions react to the players actions, because a lot of "good" actions in the game are going to be very anti establishment so freeing hybrid slaves is a good thing obviously, but that's something the government won't like so do that enough and you get branded as evil and dangerous by the media but are loved by the people you sav, and vice versa a fair number of "evil" actions will be helping the government and because of that your treated like a hero, i guess what i'm saying is i want to see complex and realistic nuance in the reactions to your actions, if the government and media says your evil them mybie many of the people in the cities you travel through will be distrustful or fearful of you even if your trying your best to help them, that kind of thing.

What? You mean you didn't read every word of every post before you commented? HOW DARE YOU!!!! <insert more faux outrage here> :p

But yeah, DMS and I were talking about factions. Actually, they mentioned it and I cosigned. I think that's the way to go. I actually wasn't even thinking about the government for some reason, but yeah, whatever authorities uphold the status quo of hybrid slavery and the like are obviously NOT gonna be too happy with abolitionist pirates. :)

You've raised another question for me. We've been talking about "morality", and player freedom to be "evil" or whatever. And so I wonder how far the game would take that. Could you actually be complicit, or directly involved in the hybrid slave trade? I would find that extremely problematic.

What really must not happen — and I really wanna emphasize this — is that in the course of giving the player freedom, the game sets up any sort of false moral equivalence. Bioshock Infinite was guilty of this, as it presented the resistance characters (Vox Populi), who were fighting against racism and oppression, as themselves going "too far", in one reality, and becoming a menace. More on that here (http://tevisthompson.com/on-videogame-reviews/). It's like that statement a certain bloated orange idiot made about "fine people on both sides".

*IMPORTANT* Anyway, to go "beyond" good and evil does not mean allowing the player to be amoral. In this way, I think the game itself has to have some sort of moral baseline. Just as I would expect a player not to be able to sexually assault another character in the game world, I do think it should be an option to be a slaver. Before you even get into some philosophical argument, like the relativism of good and evil, I think you must be able to define those two things, either absolutely, or within the context of the game world.

And for me, slavery is absolute evil.

Legion-495
05-21-2018, 10:46 PM
I think this game wants to walk the line between good and evil.
So very greyscale and dilemma type situations.
The type of no correct answer situation.

KIERROK
05-22-2018, 12:24 AM
I think this game wants to walk the line between good and evil.
So very greyscale and dilemma type situations.
The type of no correct answer situation.

I like those "What would you do?" type games, it makes the game or story feel like yours.

Legion-495
05-22-2018, 02:27 PM
I just hope that each quest will have its own story and plot to it.
Fallout 4 did that great.
Witcher 3 did it great.

And what came to my mind. In Fallout 4 you like to walk by NPCs and if they talk about a quest it gets triggered. I hope we could have that in BGE2 too.
So walking around places gives you missions, without the need to inform you in a bar (which works in Skyrim).
We should have both. It seems realistic.

atubaboun
05-31-2018, 01:34 PM
I think the game will let you choose betwin diffenrent options than good and evil.

When you think about it, good and evil are different for everyone, their definitions and what they imply change depending on who you ask.
So maybe to be beyond good and evil is to consider ideas without coping with people's opinion about them.

Maybe instead or good or evil, you'll have the choice between options that are neither, and both. Freedom, truth, justice, security, love, courage, i think those are the kind of stuff, that are beyond good and evil, or any dichotomy, and that we will be able to stand for.

DevilmanSinner
06-01-2018, 02:56 AM
So maybe to be beyond good and evil is to consider ideas without coping with people's opinion about them.

Yes. I think you've hit on something really important and essential. Each perspective thinks theirs is the "good" one. But if you write and describe their perspective from beyond a place that ascribes to notions of good and evil, then you're making for more authentic moral/ethical exploration. The writers have to explore the path to "freedom, truth, justice, security, love, courage" and less so the meanings of those destinations. Those destinations will (for the sake of video game writing) have visual/cinematic representations that signify the accomplishment of the quest we just undertook; so it's not about what a character's interpretation of "justice" or "security" is, we'll have just watched onscreen what those look like to that character. The writing is about the quintessential argument between two characters where one shouts, "it wasn't about being a good man, it was about the fame" or something similarly dramatic. That point where motivations become just a little bit more nuanced.

Heysam
06-12-2018, 08:07 PM
If BGE 2 doesn't define good and evil as black and white, they should give the slaveholders a kind of justified reason to why they're having/using slaves in some situations. Like when working in the mining industry where they use sturdy hybrids (Bulls, buffalo's, ..) because they can take the workload, but after freeing the slaves there,the economy collapses a bit since noone wants to do that work and the humans there are just not strong enough for production to be as efficient as with the only-hybrid staff (since some hybrids will still work there for money). Wich leads to lowered living standards, raised crime-rate (angry ex-slaves turning to crime wich in turn justifies their reasoning for a bit), .. and so on.

This makes me think about the MMORPG World of Warcraft where the alliance have their reasons for waging war on the horde and the horde having their reasons. Your actions should have consequences regardless if they seem "good" at first, they could have bad repurcussions later on. And vice versa.
"Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” - T.S. Elliot

The option to to play both sides would awesome, on the side of the government that enforces enslavement (depending on the race you're playing, since this wouldn't be possible for hybrid players) or the side of the ones freeing them.

This leads me to race specific quests, since hybrids just have more skillsets than humans and humans will be trying to make up for the gap in stats between them and hybrids.
For hybrids there could be a quest line "The search for the inner Beast" or something (this excludes non-hybrids then) wich leads them to their wilderness, jungle, ocean, mountain,... and so on. Gives racial abilities or boost to certain stats (swim-, flying-, Climbing- speed, stamina, skin toughness, …). Humans in their turn would be able to chose for spirituality by visiting the numerous monastaries (like the Shaolin monastaries in China, or the Hemis Monastary in India) increasing their critical strikes or something.

Hoby-free
06-16-2018, 07:37 AM
I think the kind of relative alignment being discussed here is the most appropriate for such a game universe and sounds a lot more fun to play than games which present the player with either obvious or obtuse "good" and "evil" options to proceed.

I also think it would be refreshing if the player chooses to play in a sociopathic way, they WOULD indeed become ostracized by everyone around them to the point where they'd either have to complete the game utterly alone, try to complete the game with all NPCs against them, or just not even be able to finish because the game can't be finished that way. It would be akin to running out of ammo in a shooter game: no way out. It also reminds me of an aspect I was impressed with when playing Left 4 Dead: you can only complete levels if you help your teammates and the characters are automatically polite to one another. The automation inspires players to empathize and the zombie hordes demand that players cooperate.