Posted 20 November 2012 - 12:20 PM
Right now, I'm playing Skyrim with the Live Another Life mod which basically lets you start out in various locations with different equipment. You can use it to start the game as a hunter in the woods, as a Vigilent of Stendar (basically a cleric type that hunts demons and undead), or numerous other options. Since it's a mod, it doesn't do more than just plop you in different parts of the world with equipment relevant to your chosen path but it's really nice for a sandbox game in that I can quickly start out new games in different locations.
I mention this because if you are going for more of a sandbox type game with a maximum of player choice then it might be worth it to have the beginning of the game let you start in various locations with a choice of starter equipment and then let the player build themselves up from there. I'm kind of guilty of starting new games just to test things out with new characters and having to redo the games introduction all those times gets old.
So, maybe the player can quickly start a new game by deciding appearance (as much as the game allows), then starting equipment, then choose one of several starting locations or rough backstories. Something like "homeless thief in Liarsburg" or "Merchants son in Honestown" or something like that. Then as they explore the world they can make choices that give them various perks or background information.
As for making a character distinctly good or evil (or maybe using some other system like "maintains the balance of nature", "kills all non-humans", or "advances SCIENCE!") maybe have something like the moods from Sims 3? Basically, the character has some sort of morale stat which when full gives bonuses to things like XP generation, strength, health or whatever. But if the morale bar is low then it gives negative effects.
The player can then choose to take certain traits which boost the characters morale depending on how they act. Pacifist characters might have a trait that boosts their morale when they heal or disarm conflicts peacefully (like say using healing spells, calming magic, or diplomacy), while a violent character gets boosts whenever they kill someone. That could be split into things like:
Boisterous Bruiser: Bonus to morale when defeating an enemy in fair combat, decrease when forced to flee or win using magic.
Sadist: Bonus to morale when killing an enemy who is begging for mercy, decrease when you suffer critical damage.
Miser: Bonus when you make money, decrease when you spend or lose money.
Things like that. I'm thinking the Morale bar would have a range between -100 and 100 and it gradually moves toward zero as time passes (basically, even if you get a negative morale at some point then you'll gradually get better even if you don't do anything while the same applies to when you fill it up). It could be customized in various ways, like some characters might get increased health regeneration, magic regeneration, or maybe stealth skills depending on how good they feel with a corresponding decrease in effectviness if their morale plummets. Other things like Depression or Egomania could alter the morale meters default value (people suffering from depression have their morale bar naturally move toward -10 instead of zero while egomaniacs have it move to +10).
Actually, this idea reminds me of how things work in the World of Darkness setting. Basically each character has a few defining traits from the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues. The player gets bonuses from excercising either their virtues or their vices (that is, everyone has both virtues and vices), virtues are harder to pull off but restore a persons willpower to the full while excercising a vice gives a smaller bonus.
Basically, every player is going to have their own backstory for their character (or none at all) so trying to reflect every detail in a characters appearance or place in the game world could be difficult. If there is a way to customize how the character reacts to themself and their own actions it could do something to give that person character. If the player gives their character a heroic trait and finds their new character gets morally devastated every time he is forced to go around killing innocents it could do something.
I suppose it could be likened to those survival game where realism is added by having the character need to eat, drink and sleep, except in this case they need to perform actions that reflect their morality and/or worldview.