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The world as we see it (But what about the bad guys)?

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(Wav's post is what is sparking this, but I didn't want to derail his :) ) http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=302470 http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=302838 One thing I would like to see incorporated more into games in general, is the "grey" area. Most games are black and white, good guy or bad guy. By this I mean we always look at things from "our" point of view, or societies point of view. We use these views to make the rules of what is right an wrong. Villians in movies, games, books, even history are always depicted from one side (and I am not going to validate or argue morals here, I'm just offering a perspective that is rarely seen). Hero for example, touched the grey area that I am referring to. The man depicted as a villian, is seen as such, and bears the weight of how he attempts to accomplish what is eventually seen as a noble goal. Every side has a purpose, and as such, a view on the world. There is those that are ruthless, those that are honorbound (and honor again has many facets), those that are maniacal etc... The world, and idea described in the above links I think would greatly benefit from this type of approach. The design would be able to take advantage of a backdrop with such versatility. Each side/faction may want to use you, while you use them, to accomplish goals. Each side/faction might have aspects you (or your character) agree and disagree with. As a player your goal could differ from faction to faction. Gonna keep this short to see where it goes!

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I'm not sure I'm reading you right. You talk about moral grey area, and that's clear enough, and you talk about perspectives, and that's good too, but when you combine them you start to confuse me. I'll respond to the two major themes that I distilled from your post, and then ask a few questions.

Grey Area: I understand the notion of breaking rules to get things done. Macchiavelli is always in style, and being evil in order to do greater good is one of the most emotionally charged forms of self-sacrifice. I think that it will always be a powerful tool for storytelling and character building.

Perspective: In any story with a protagonist, there will be a dominant viewpoint to which to audience is sympathetic. Other factions or individuals will no doubt have varying outlooks, but even their mindsets are usually seen through the filter of the primary point of view. So, I think it's a good thing for a game or story to have one major viewpoint.

My guess at your objective: You seem to be aiming at a different, more objective method of telling stories and making games--a way to escape the bounds of the character's outlook and see the big picture. This would valorize each of the factions, allowing you to see the good and the evil in everyone, and perhaps even orchestrate your interactions to benefit the world, rather than furthuring one faction's designs. Is this right?

Some questions:

1. Do you intend to do away with the hero/protagonist entirely and replace him with a blank-slate player avatar, devoid of allegiance or interest, so that the player can act directly on the world without any preconceived standards of behavior or loyalty?

2. Will you represent all factions as rounded, deep entities with understandable strengths and weaknesses, or will you use some stock ideas to give the world some structure?

3. Will you universalise morality, so that noble enemies can respect the virtues of their adversaries?

And finally, a few comments:

Take a look at faction-based games like Escape Velocity (there are three of them) for ways to use a single character to experience the struggles and dignity of multiple political or military factions. Also, Halo 2 put a real human face on the Covenant, and the Arbiter character is a good traitor/hero type of character that works so well in times of revolution.

Think about the things that cause factions to be so divided that they can hate one another on principle. Then you might be better able to remove those barriers for your characters.

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Before I go on I want to make this clear:
Hero for example, touched the grey area that I am referring to...

By Hero, you mean the movie, right?

My viewpoint is that there is a lot of junks out there. The villains that you referred to in "Villians in movies, games, books, even history are always depicted from one side" are junk characters used to attract the casual audience. They are like junk food. Good history do not depict historical figures as 'villains'. Your notion is correct, there are grey area and different perspectives, and those are what make good stories interest. This property is usually referred to as the dimension of the character. If you want to do something deeper, it is actually expected that the characters exhibit these dimensions. It is only due to the commercial aspects that the general characters out there are reduced to a shallow form.

A lot of games have such dimensions. And a lot of them are visibly dumbed down to accommodate the simplistic minds. A lot of them use the strong distinction between the villain and the hero just as an initial attraction. And there are players who do not enjoy being in the grey area, (because in part it is how life actually is) that would get turned off when the villain they are fighting does not seem evil enough. To them, the unquestionable evilness is satisfying because it provides a certainty that is not as strong in real life.

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