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Wavinator

Evil gives a certain reward, but good does not

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If you really wanted to bring out the underlying philosophy of good versus evil, would this work? Rewards are a powerful aspect of gameplay. But one thing that really seems to clash with the aesthetic of virtue is the idea of a set reward. If you do good to get a reward, you're really behaving in a mercenary (and some some would say entirely selfish) fashion. You haven't done right because it's right, you've done right to obtain gain. This sort of system seems very well suited for the aesthetic of evil, however. Doing something nice for someone while having an underhanded motive is perfect villain behavior-- particularly if the deed is quick and returns a quick reward. So given that players need a reward, how would you capture the right feel of doing good for the sake of good rather than for gain? Should the game acknowledge the player's behavior / sacrifice in some "authorative voice," like that of an end of game narrator or through a cutscene, or via some trait or notation like "Savior of the Damned" (as in Fallout)? Or should reinforcement come entirely and only through the game world, perhaps in how you're treated? EDIT: Ugh, major typo [Edited by - Wavinator on December 6, 2005 1:24:28 AM]

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from a players pov, is doesn't matter if an action is "good" or "evil", if the reward improves your abilities (by gaining skill/power or money/equipment) in beating the game.
as examples you could have a look at the games that intend you to be "bad":

i.e. Dungeon Keeper I and II. your job is to build up dungeons, torture creatures, horde gold and prevent "Heroes" from invading your Caves. in DKII exists a room, the casino, where your creatures can either be made happy (by them winning the games often) or you could make money (by letting the coupiers(sp?) "play false"). happy creatures fight better, but money pays them and the rest of the dungeon.
so are you really "evil", robbing your creatures to buy better defences (spiketraps, cannons, fear-traps, ect.) or "good", make your creatures happy for a short period of time that then "may" fight harder?

in other games (the KotoR-series coes to my mind) you sometimes have the oputunity to reject earned rewards. in KotoR you would be then rewarded with "light-force-points" which eventually (if gained enough) provide you with some extra-power on the good side. or you could even force more reward from the "questgiver" and gain "dark-force-points" which would give you certain (though different and more violent) powers the same way. but you would have (i.e. twice) the cash too. good equipment is expensive, the "light-side" is power-wise balanced with the "dark-side" does not level out the lack of such and so i think the "dark-side" is definitely easier to play (i went through the first game several times once even "gray" between "light" and "dark")

in conclusion i think you should try to balance it out. give the "good" rewards too, maybe less at first, but later on they could rely on those they helped. the "evil"-characters would build up their might faster, but wont have any support later in your game, i.e. they would not fight the end-battle with a party of four, but alone instead.
finally you could "lead" your players to do good or "evil" if the reward is right. give them more for the way you think it is the "right" one. most players only see the "instand" payment (the gold, the mighty-ubersword-+5-against-dragons).
if you need the player to decide for "good" or "evil" the rewards must be equal. but the actions should have different side effects on the world. (haven't played, but "Fable" is supposed to alter your character according to your actions, Black&White soes this with the whole world you control)

i would prefer such a game, where i can be "good" or "evil" with no penalties whatsoever. another example: if "evil-mike" gets more cash from his victims, have "good-mike" pay less for the stuff he needs to buy.

just my (a players) thoughts.

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I feel that most RPG games really botch the handling of evil characters. You are usually given the option of either paragon of virtue (the stereotypical good character), selfish mercenary (which is often treated as ethically neutral), and the cartoonish moustache-twirling black caped villain who likes to drop-kick puppies off cliffs (because it's fun, I guess). Knights of the Old Repulic is a good example of this; where evil is treated as cartoonishly stupid. I wanted to play as the arch-manipulator, but the evil conversation choices were more along the lines of a sadistic bully. For some reason the evil NPCs such as Canderous Ordo, HK-47 and most of the important characters on Korriban to be more realistic and interesting than the evil PC.

Sorry, just had to get that rant out of my system [grin].

Since your question revolves around the good characters, I feel that most RPGs do the "good" side decently. However, as you've said the giving of rewards is not in line with doing good for the sake of good; for example it's pretty cliche that refusing a reward often means that the player will instead be given something even better.

One way of doing this is done in some of the D&D games when playing as a paladin; since paladins have to be models of virtue, they will automatically refuse any rewards. However this only works if you choose your character type at the very beginning of the game, and probably won't work in your more freeform game.

You could have an indicator of how virtuous a character is, similar to the good/evil statistic in NeverWinter Nights or the light/dark side property in Knights of the Old Republic. The main problem with this is that some choices will have more than one interpretation depending on the character type. An example of this from my evil character in Knights of the Old Republic was when my avatar told two NPCs to stop fighting; her motive was that they were really getting on her nerves (slightly evil), but the game interpreted that as an attempt at being a peacemaker (good). And as you've written (and I strongly agree), an evil mastermind-type villain would try to be nice to everyone in order to win them over to their side.

One way I've seen an attempt to make evil character pretend to like people is by offering two versions of the same conversation choice, i.e.:
[Truth] I am doing this for the good of the colony!
[Lie] I am doing this for the good of the colony!
They do the same thing in terms of the conversation, but the second is the "evil" option.

The most powerful choices for good characters is if they have to sacrifice something in order to do good. A good example of this is a part in Baldur's Gate II where the PC is given a series of character tests; in one he has to make the choice of either crippling his statistics, or sacrificing the life of one of his party.

As for rewards for being good, there's a few ways you could take it.
- stats and titles: there's an indicator of how noble the PC is in the stats sheet. Titles as in Fallout can be awarded for heroes and villains. This involves careful choices in the gameplay dynamics; I think this works best if a small change one way or the other has little effect on the gameplay (so you have to be persistantly good or evil for it to change anything).
- physical appearance: good characters have a "hero" look, while evil characters have a "villain" look. From what I've seen, this was done in Fable (but way over the top), as well as in Knights of the Old Republic
- NPC reactions: probably one of the best ways is to have everyone treat you differently based on your actions. A good PC is in general going to be more popular than an evil one. However you might want to put in some choices where the good option is in expense of popularity (such as saving the life of a monster or villain), so it might be a good idea to put in some other choices too.
- rection of mentor/deity: maybe the PC has a special trainer/mentor/significant other etc. who is the only one who fully understands their motives. Or maybe the PC has a guardian angel/deity who can see into their heart.

I guess you've already covered most of these, but that's all I can think of at the moment. I usually prefer to play as as the good character anyway, as I find that more fun to role-play in RPGs (since the option of scheming arch-villain is usually not provided to me in a way I enjoy [smile]).

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In Real Life (tm), many 'evil' acts (wrongdoing) have immediate rewards and long-term negative consequences. Many 'good' (responsible) acts don't have immediate gratification (but might) and long-term positive consequences.

Again, in real life, evil acts like stealing stuff gets you the goods, rape gets you sex, and murder gives you a feeling of power, but in the long term they'll all result in a feeling of guilt and end up in prison.

Conversely, good acts like keeping your areas cleaned up gives very little immediate reward but a long-term consequence of self worth, productivity, and the ability to have friends over. Helping old ladies and charities gives you little immediate reward but good karma.


Most games ignore this entirely. See the NPC Complaints Meeting. In summary, those annoying Main Characters come in, steal stuff, break things, kill people and pets, destroy property, cause social upheaval, even murder world leaders ... yet never get punished.

Some Rogue-style games have a slightly realistic aspect. Steal from a shopkeeper and a whole lot of Keystone Cops come after you, other shopkeepers attack you or give bad deals, and your karma goes down, for example.

RPGs don't lend themselves to this very much, except for games that you run from the law until you are caught, and get the "Game Over: You're in jail" screen.

frob.

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I agree with the short/longterm system.

The players choice to be good/evil should act as a modifier on the difficulty of the game.

By default you are good, and you get the normal RPG interaction. Yes, there is the "mercenary" viewpoint, but not everyone needs to tell you that they'll give you a reward for helping them, it's simply that they are so grateful when you return their horse from those bandits that they give you one, and at the same time you aren't evil risking your life to help people just because you know that they'll reward you for your trouble - you don't need to be Mr. Super Virtue to be considered good and noble.

Evil exists as a difficulty modifier - it gives players a shortcut around the usual requirements that a good person would have to complete. Instead of saving a million gold piece to get a sword, you simply steal it. In this way evil is a short term reduction in difficulty. However evil has consquences - your reputation will spread and fewer people will want to do business with you, or provide you with information. Town guards and other adventurers (if you want this to be a real world, there should at least be an illusion that you aren't the only one who can pickup a sword) will become more and more hostile toward you.

The result is that an evil act designed to reduce or skip the requirements for one task, increases the requirements for others (not only do you need to deliver the letter to someones mother in order to a reward, you need to avoid running into the town guard, in addition to all the regular bandits). The result is that you will be faced with a choice - either suck it up and be good, taking the "punishment" for your previous actions (responsiblity, thus ultimately making you good again), or use further evil to overcome the increased obstacles.

This creates a downward spiral where you can gain ultimate power (evil guy who walks into town with his ill gotten super weapons, tortures people for information, then slaughters the rest for their supplies) at the price of ultimate challenge, the entire world is against you.

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See Lounge thread on altruism, which I think is somewhat related to this.

I think there are two basic types of rewards you can provide:

1. character rewards, which affect the game state
2. player rewards, which do not affect the game state

In order to prevent doing good for the sake of good from turning into doing good for the sake of getting reward X for your character, 'good' acts should give rewards that fit category 2 only. 'Neutral' and 'evil' acts could give rewards for both categories.

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I'm all about the Evil -> short-term solution, Good -> long-term advance. The evil guy woul dhave all the money, guns, gimmicky superpowers etc. and the good guy would have squat, but over time the gimmicks don't get any better, and the good guy is building up his skill/relationships/political clout, so that the "good" path has a gradual grinding progress curve to totall badassery, while the "evil" path gets things done, but you'll eventually find yourself limited by the finite resources your "quick&easy" lifestyle has earned you.

So, "Evil" lets you jump to level 10 right away, but you'll never get much past level 15. "Good" makes you rise through the ranks in order, but you can get up to level 50 that way.

Hence, one super-dedicated "good" kung-fu master could own a have-dozen "evil" mercs.

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Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I'm all about the Evil -> short-term solution, Good -> long-term advance. The evil guy woul dhave all the money, guns, gimmicky superpowers etc. and the good guy would have squat, but over time the gimmicks don't get any better, and the good guy is building up his skill/relationships/political clout, so that the "good" path has a gradual grinding progress curve to totall badassery, while the "evil" path gets things done, but you'll eventually find yourself limited by the finite resources your "quick&easy" lifestyle has earned you.

So, "Evil" lets you jump to level 10 right away, but you'll never get much past level 15. "Good" makes you rise through the ranks in order, but you can get up to level 50 that way.

Hence, one super-dedicated "good" kung-fu master could own a have-dozen "evil" mercs.


While my general idea was for single player, where choosing evil would ultimately leave you with fewer choices (you basically have to fight, fight, and fight some more), but would still be doable (just a different sort of gameplay and perhaps a bit more challenging since you can never really let your guard down), that sounds interesting for a MMORPG:

Make true, boy scout, good, a very difficult thing to stick with. After all, that's the way it is in the real world. In the real world even the "good guys" are only good in a relative sense.

Being pure good would be like the old "complete Metroid with only 20 missiles and no extra energy tanks" kind of challenge - possible, but very hard, and a difficult by intentional sacrifice situation. However the ultimate reward would be the ability to get farther in the leveling game - perhaps evil helps you get ahead, but at the same time increases the amount of exponential XP needed per level. So the more evil you are, the more easy power you get, but the harder/more time you need to put in to level up because you need so much experience.

One example might be killing - a pure character wouldn't kill a bandit or a wolf (bandit is human, wolf is just a natural animal), he would disable them and let them live. Because of this the good character not only has a harder time fighting many foes (while he is attacked by all hostile NPCs, he can only kill the true demon spawn evils one) but only gets experience when he kills a true evil character (for does not count against his good standing), or completes some good deed quest that provides an XP reward. The neutral character kills those hostile to him, and as a result has a reduction in his standing, meaning the overall XP he will need for future levels goes up. A true evil character kills anyone he pleases, even non-hostile NPCs, in order to take their money and the XP from killing them, however this greatly decreases their standing, meaning they'll need more and more XP.

Fortunately this mode of MMORPG play has an interesting side effect - while an elite and select number of "good" characters will typically occupy the upper levels (good = better character late in the game), evil is not totally counted out. A truly dedicated person could build up an evil character despite the leveling problems (likely by finding ways of being more and more evil), resulting in a tiny handful of super villian class players in your MMORPG - true evil masterminds who exist to thwart entire parties of good characters.

EDIT: To sum up some actual mechanics

- When you kill someone/thing (or otherwise use skills), you gain experience points (this is obvious, practice = improvement) and often get loot which can be used to directly or indirectly (use as cash to buy upgrades) to make yourself stronger.

- All actions (kill demon, kill bear, kill peasant, steal) less then pure have an evil index. That index is added to the requirements for the level after your next and the next N (say 10) levels after that, exponentially increased for each level

So say you are level 1. The XP requirement to get to 2 is 100XP, and 2 to 3 is 150XP, and 3 to 4 is 250XP. Killing something with an evil index of 5 will increase the 2 to 3 requirement to 155XP, and the 3 to 4 requirement to 260XP, and so on.

The N levels (rather them permanent) exists so that you can mend your evil ways somewhat (the base on which next level experience is calculated will still have that previous evil on it, but it won't be increasing every level anymore, so it will eventually average out to a small increase).

This means that an evil streak when you are level 3 will only be a small roadblock - it might mean that your XP requirements are only the same as one level higher for characters that have always been good.

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Not to toot my own horn, but I'm starting to really like where this kind of mechanic could take a MMORPG, especially if combined with party mechanics that fed off good/neutral/evil alignments.

In theory the population of a non-level capped server with this kind of system would look something like this:

At the lowest levels (newbies), you have an equal number of good, neutral, and evil characters. These make up the peasants, the general citizens of your world. They also make up the chief victims (even the "bad" ones, who at this stage are really just shoplifter evil) of evil.

At the mid range you start to see good drop off sharply - to be good at these levels will have taken a lot of work. Instead you'll see many neutral and evil characters - the regular mercenaries/adventurers (neutral) who have tried to be good but have wavered a bit to get to this level, and the mainstream bad guys (evil) of your online world.

At the highest levels players find all that evil catching up to them - leveling up this high is a huge, seemingly impossible task (I need 1,000,000 XP to level up???). The elite players, almost all good, prevail at this level. These are the heros of the land, defending the innocent (newbies) from the evil of many mid range characters. At this stage being neutral has become a lost cause - you don't get the long term benefits of good, or the short term benefits of bad. Also at this level you find a tiny handful of devote evil players - either players who have stopped at nothing to find news ways to be evil (and thus get the tons of XP they need to level up), or the perfect story element - good characters who later became corrupted by evil. These few, the smallest group in the game (with the possible expection of the even higher level good players [the handful of good players as devote as the handful of bad players], what we'd call the living legends) are the super villians of the world.

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I think that good should be harder, and progresivly so the more you are of that alignment. Let the reward be greater statisfaction with beating the game. If we can't refuse rewards in real life, can't we at least in RPG's. I wan't to be able to refuse all rewards, just make money from banits stuff. Yet to be even better let me give this gear to the local gaurd ect. Let me beat the game leved up but with starting equipment. If you do let me get better equipment later on don't make it a reward for being light, that would make me more mecanary, make it avalible on both paths or balanced with a dark side item. I should also be able to give that away. Dedecate you life and all your posesions to the good of others this is the path of true light. I can't live it in real life, but let me in games. If you give me any reward for being light let it be a cut sceane avalible only to those who follow the light path exclusively, and go the extra step (giving away there stuff).

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