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Default Joystiq - How Moral Choice in Games Fail

February 14th, 2012, 20:08
Joystig has an editorial named Dark Side:Cause It Looks Cool: The failings of Moral Choice in Games. The article investigates how moral choices in games play out. The author mentions both the Mass Effect series, Dragon Age - and Ultima IV. An snip from the article about DA: Origins:
Dragon Age: Origins: Although it still largely follows the Fallout/BioWare model, two shifts make it more interesting. First, it doesn't treat ethics primarily as good versus evil, but instead more as ends versus means. Second, that tends to manifest itself primarily in whether your companions agree with you or not, instead of an overall score. This keeps the game's narrative focused on a smaller scale of keeping your partners happy, which is great since the companions are Dragon Age's greatest strength.
Furthermore, the author mentions a choice in the MMO from Bioware: Star Wars: The Old Republic. While we don't normally deal with MMOs, the example given certainly is a good way of illustrating how not to make moral choices in games - example is a spoiler, though:
Perhaps the worst example I encountered in my time playing The Old Republic occurred on Tatooine, as an Imperial player. I was sent to uncover proof that the Jawas had a shaman who could use the Force. After a few quests, I uncovered proof, and confronted a Jawa leader. A game that allowed a truly moral choice would have given me the opportunity to leave the Jawas in peace, or even to join them and fight for their freedom. Instead, all of my "choices" forced me to fight the Jawa, and then capture or kill it and give that information to one Imperial or another.
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February 14th, 2012, 20:08
I find moral choices an irrelevant issue. Being one who does not believe in such a thing, because every action in the right setting can be good or bad to anybody, be it priest or rapist.

The important thing is complex characters, with complex personalities. This is where they fail most of the times, only the witch is somewhat interesting, because it lies in a gray area, like we all are. The rest are so predictable and bland.

My opinion is to make every NPC in shades of gray, with a personality that you would like, make all NPC respectable in their own way. This is something movies also fail to grasp
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February 15th, 2012, 03:21
I don't think that SWTOR snippet really stands up. When choosing to be an Imperial you have made a moral choice to be on the side of oppression and villainy. So in that light all your choices in the above quest make sense.
What they could do though is have a different quest where you betray the Imperials and join the Rebellion.
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February 15th, 2012, 13:54
The best way to deal with moral choices in a game, is not to deal with it. Failing that, at the very least, DON'T try to measure it in any way whatsoever.

Simply make plausible scenarios with plausible outcomes - and the rest will sort itself out.
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February 15th, 2012, 15:58
Originally Posted by pox67 View Post
When choosing to be an Imperial you have made a moral choice to be on the side of oppression and villainy.
It doesn't need to be like that.

Just look at the original cinematic series. The troops were not always evil.
First there were the honest Republic Clone Soldiers.
Then there were the later Republic Clone Soldiers.
And during their "use" came the Empire. The Clones were merely used as tools which did not ask questions. Look at Order 66.
The Stormtroopers were - in principle - still those soldiers which had been brought up to keep the order within the Empire.
The corruption was subtle. Slightly shifting, slightly nudging them and their superiors into directions of more and more violence against others. Controlling rather more and more through fear than through honesty. I once read that George Lucas was inspired by the Nazi troops for this. It's not by chance that the Star Wars Imperial officers wear clothes which resemble - from a distance - officer's clothes of Nazi officers. And the Nazis used fear as a means to contrrol people, too.

but in the beginning they were honest soldiers dedicated to bringing order and justice into the Galaxy. And of course that both are the FIRST things that become corrupted and later destroyed in ANY war. Ask war journalists. They could tell you stories about that …


As a sidenote, DDO is not much better than BG in that respect : The only "choice" you have there is fighting. No diplomacy, nothing. Only fighting.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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