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Ketchaval

Dealing with inner conflict in games?

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How can we make games that deal with inner conflict in the protagonist and / or his companions/ allies? Or even in the player himself, ie. make the player ponder the questions that the characters would. One possibility would be to have a dialog between two characters (or within the mind of the character ie. an interactive internal monologue between his confidence and his fear). Ie. Fred, we must save Princess Zeto! Dave, but the castle is surrounded by Count Ducko's monsters. Fred, we cannot let Count Ducko have his evil way. Dave, we must not be caught, he will have us tortured then execute us! (Yes, this dialogue is deliberately bad, but you get the idea behind it). I can also imagine a game where a thief has stolen the treasures from the tomb, but to escape he needs to use the different treasures to defeat the traps. But maybe this would be too confusing to a player. Any ideas on how to portray or imply internal conflict (within a person), or dissent within a group? [Edited by - Ketchaval on April 26, 2005 2:06:41 PM]

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I suggest that the tools utilized to develop character(s) biographically and the key relationships established and exposed as a function of plot design and interactivity design are key here.

In filmic writing, for example, there is a tension line between how the character (irrespective of the size of the role; protagonist to common commedia de arte emsemble character) feels intrinsically and how they behave extrinsically in the conflict tide.

Generally speaking, there are three levels of response you can design for: primitive, emotional and intellectual. A character might kill to save their life or the life on another. A character might get angry or sad seeing their affections rebuffed, and make an effort externally for revenge that effect the outcome of the plot, or more commonly, the pace at which the plot resolution does or does not come. A character might simply watch another character respond emotionally and intellectually understand why, not make a big deal of it, and get back to their purpose in the conflict.

If a character passes the bounds of reasonableness in any of these areas, then you have a character that has gone into a state of unreasonable, and the audience is going to lose credibility perceptually for this character, unless careful forshadowing, setting design or conflict exposition predicates this unreasonableness as a reasonable reaction.

An example of this would be: Woman character goes ballistic at her husband for letting a hottie vixen evildoer flirt saucily with her husband who gullibly gets affected and responds inappropriately given he is in a primary relationship. It could be foreshadowed that the vixen who had designs on the man for this act was earlier in the timeline of the story rebuffed by the wife of the husband in some professional or social situation, a sort of a predication. This is not the best example, but the best I could come up with off the cuff.

As far as dissent is concerned within a group. We are tribal by nature, whether we dress it in robes of civility or not. Each tribe has a leader, who likely has competitors for the throne. A natural heirarchy extends downward through the tribe to the lowest member of that particular society. Each person knows their place, and makes sure everyone else does also. Usually, standards for the group or tribe are set by the way the leaders act or don't act. We are amazing mimics as human beings, and we often act the way the example was set for us long ago rather than by our own internally guided response system.

A simple "off with their head" from a monarch can ripple throughout an entire subject kingdom, and possibly, and in many cases, effectively, quell a rebellion overnight. This action can induce a reaction of giving up amongst the opposition to monarchy to emboldening and reaffirming resistance against it, according to the conflict design and individual character designs present in your selection of players in the drama.

The other side of the spectrum of this is the movie where Adam Sandler taught the kid how to spit all the way to the ground, something that some would find as not the thing you would want to teach a child, yet, when it was exposed as a function of the progressing relationship between Adam Sandler and the child, all of Adam's friends, who had been laughing at him for being suckered into hanging out and acting like a daddy, were quite impressed with the fatherly efforts he made. Let me know if there are some further questions on this, as my example might not be as clear as they could be.

HTH,

Adventuredesign

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The easy way to do internal conflict would be the whole "Shoulder Angel" thing.
For example, fade the background to black, then have semitransparent copies emerge from the character with the conflict going on, visually differentiated from each other and the hero character--this would imply that the two "Shoulder Angels" represent the character's feelings, and are not just some external character. In any case, the PC and the two "S.A.'s"have a short diolouge, where they discuss the advantages/disadvanteages of the proposed course of action, or the recent event.
Alternatively, you could have a single SA come out of the character, and the character plays the "good" shoulder angel, while the copy plays the "bad" one.

In Final Fantasy Six, one of the characters (Cyan, for the record) had some MAJOR issues going on. this was represented by a sidequest, where youtravel to his old home, and go through a short, really trippy side quest, where they go through some of Cyan's memories and a surreal alternate reality.

The sequence ended with a fight with a boss, who represented Cyan's internal issues. when the battle was over, Cyan was back to his old self, and learned some really awesome moves.

So, yeah, that's another way.

Also, you could have the players make asides (e.g., using Katch's original example, fred would face the camera and say "I really don't like this. Count Ducko's castle looks really creepy." (pause) "But we need to go and rescue Princess Zeto...")

Finally, the 12 Kingdom's anime show had an odd vision sequence where two actors wearing masks, representing the main character's parents, verbally discussed some of the self-esteem issues the main character had. This could be easily adapted to have teh actor's represent various emotions or needs of the character.

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A cutscene of his mind? A surrealistic dream that alludes to the conflict or perhaps the cliche angel and demon on his shoulder?

Some spoilers if you want to play Jade Empire and haven't:
Was playing Jade Empire, and the Sun Li, when you fight him, tries to mentally attack you by causing you to doubt yourself. You have to fight him in your mind. I kinda liked that touch, since being a martial artists, you can win a fight by intimidating a opponent. Of course I would have liked if everything had been more suiting to the environment.

Edit: Fixed spelling and typos. Sorry.

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I certainly couldn't come up with something as deep as addy wrote up there, but I can't help pointing to Knights of the Old Republic 2. (I didn't play the first)
Throughout the game, there are some brilliant cutscenes exposing some of the motivations of the characters in your party, giving them much depth of character.
Even better, when you are in the middle of a conversation, they'll happily interrupt to give you a piece of their mind, letting you know that maybe you shouldn't do this, or that you should take some other point in consideration.
It's great because those reactions completely depend on who is with you at the time, the best being when you have two characters that are in conflict with each other (say, good old Kreia and Handmaiden, for example) and that will argue with each other. Often, depending on your choice, your influence with your companions will be affected (depending on who you listened to, they'll be pissed off, or they'll like you even more).
Given that I have seen such things happen since Ultima VII, I am not sure why you think it's not good enough. Or maybe I am missing a point?

For inner conflict, it's slightly more problematic, IMO, although it depends on the time of game. If you are in a game like HalfLife where the hero never talks to let you feel immersed, inner conflict would be, at best, problematic...
on the other hand, in a game like Discworld, where the hero is a well defined character, the inner monologue makes up a vital part of the game...

I think I am not understanding your question, i.e. I fail to see the problem, here. Maybe you could be more precise? Where do you think games are failing in their present form? Why do you think they are not good enough?

Or maybe I am missing the point completely? sorry I can't help [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by ahw

For inner conflict, it's slightly more problematic, IMO, although it depends on the time of game. If you are in a game like HalfLife where the hero never talks to let you feel immersed, inner conflict would be, at best, problematic...
on the other hand, in a game like Discworld, where the hero is a well defined character, the inner monologue makes up a vital part of the game...

I think I am not understanding your question, i.e. I fail to see the problem, here. Maybe you could be more precise? Where do you think games are failing in their present form? Why do you think they are not good enough?

Or maybe I am missing the point completely? sorry I can't help [grin]


hi AHW,
I shouldn't have diluted my point in my post by asking about conflict within a group. That wasn't what I was really after :(.

I was noting that Sunandshadow has linked to threads where before the final climax of a story, the MAIN CHARACTERs have to come to terms with their own demons and worries. They don't just say me BIG HERO ! me go save UNIVERSE!
They worry that they aren't good enough, or that the price of winning could be too high.. ie. losing family /friends. And I note that very few of the games I have played question this type of issue. Of course it helps if there is a predefined thinking / talking character.

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One thing we are doing in Xenallure to show the PC's internal conflict is present bits of internal monologue (the PC speaking), then a dialogue choice reacting to the monologue (the player arguing back). This works very well in a game where the PC is an undescribed, empty avatar for the player to impose his/her personality onto, but it might not work so well for a game where the PC was supposed to have a distinct personality and specific internal conflict.

I like the shoulder angels idea - I can imagine hilarious use of that in a comedy game. :) I remember someone mentioning in this forum a few months ago the idea of trapping two characters' minds in one body - that's another version of this idea. Or you can also use two external characters - for example, the PC's commanding officer could be yelling at him to think about things one way, while his girlfriend is telling him to think about it the opposite way.

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Objectively, using monologue or the 'shoulder angels' is probably the most primitive form (and the least skillful way, although it is also the cheapest and most direct way) of presenting inner conflicts.

An agent with inner conflict is like your dog getting sick. It doesn't tell you that it is sick, but there are symptoms. Presenting inner conflict can be done in a similar way, for example, if the character is usually quick in making a decision, if you present a situation where the character hesitates on making a decision, it shows a discrepancy, a sign of an inner conflict, a dimension that you don't know about. In other words, inner conflicts are not completely contained, their existences is manifested in certain situations. (If the effect of inner conflict never show up, it means that the inner conflict doesn't do anything to the story. What is the point of having it?) You objective can be to design such situations to expose the inner conflicts.

Monologues are not as skillful as other techniques. This is why most movies and poetry won't use them for presenting inner conflict. (For both the cases when the avatar is empty or occupied)

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Quote:
Original post by Estok

you present a situation where the character hesitates on making a decision, it shows a discrepancy, a sign of an inner conflict, a dimension that you don't know about.
)


I've been thinking about "total freedom" in RPGs and Grand Theft Auto vs. characters with predefined personalities. Ie. If the story is presenting a character who acts as a real hero, then I don't think it is appropriate to have them going around massacring innocents. One way to stop this is the automatic way, ie. you can't shoot at or hit friendly civilians. Such as in Zelda, where pressing the appropriate button brings up the conversation menu instead, and they are immune to being attacked with other weapons.

But what about games where it allows you to do things which are "out of character" or where you are giving orders to other characters who already have their own set of core values and beliefs. Ie. A squad based game such as X-Com.

What if each other character in the party that you can give orders to shows symptoms / objects if you order them to do things they don't want to do.

Ie. Order Helena to fire on alien infected people, if you keep doing this she will protest more and more, and if you keep doing it she will freak out and her gun will start to wobble, she might even puke up or dry heave, after this she might panic / and start firing at you. (Not really a new idea, as it has been seen to an extent in things like Baldur's Gate) but it helps to develop characters and show internal conflict. Ie. If to continue they have to do someting that they may feel conflicted about.

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The example about helen may show a conflict between a person's belief and the task, but that is not really an 'internal conflict'. Sometimes the difference is subtle, and only depends on how you word the presentation. An example of internal conflict or inner conflict:

Spiderman killed the green goblin, and harry wants to know who the murderer of his father is, but Peter Parker can't tell him that he was the one who killed his father. There is an inner conflict for Peter.

Note that there is no need for any monologue to present this inner conflict. It shows up on the deteriorating relationship between Harry and Peter, and the increasing depression of Peter as he questions his duty as a superhero.

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