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Can an NPC corrupt the player's character?

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If an NPC has the power to give or take from you the things that you need to play the game, can that NPC "corrupt" you? When you play a game, you bring to it a certain amount of emotional investment commensurate with how much you care about the game, the gameplay, the story and the game world. This means that not everyone can be motivated to care about the events within a game to the same degree. Given this, what ways can a game (for the sake of story) "corrupt" / "co-opt" the player-- that is, manipulate the player into doing something against their own best interests-- without simultaneously causing the player to emotionally disengage? More specifically, do you think it is possible to:
  • Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing
  • (In a more open-ended game) give the player freedom, then allow an NPC to take it away unless the player complies
  • Keep all disenchantment or upset the player might feel directed not at the game, but at a specific character?
If so, how?

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Interesting standpoint.

I think, because Games are a very voluntary affair (you stop playing the instant the fun stops for you), this must happen at a stage in the Game where the player has become very attached to the character and other characters.

Even then, though, it's likely the player will be shocked and consider the Game no more fun.

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Tough problem. ^_^;

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing

Not in any kind of traditional rpg approach, I think. If a game involves or allows the mindless slaughter of humans/aliens/goblins/whatever, or any kind of violent combat at all for that matter, then I can't really see how moral well-being of the avatar can become relevant. As players we do things that we'd never do in real life, and that's one of the attractions of computer games. If the avatar becomes sick with worry because we do what we want to do, then I can't see myself playing that game for long.

It would be interesting to see the avatar take a more active role in the game, but that immediately precludes a number of people from liking said game because they can't identify with or just plain hate the avatar (Freelancer comes to mind, for me at least. Masquerade: Redemption also had some of these problems). Not everyone wants to play a goody-two-shoes, either. So does the character adapt to the actions you take? ("I may dress nice, but I'm still a maniac!" shouts CJ from GTA:SA when you start slaughtering pedestrians ^_^).

Quote:

(In a more open-ended game) give the player freedom, then allow an NPC to take it away unless the player complies

How much are you wanting to restrict the player? Putting the avatar in a cell with no semi-obvious exit and no indication of the time to be spent there? Then you could just exec(uninstall.exe) directly ^_^;. I can see something like "you can't fly around in this sector (without getting hunted down) unless you do mission XYZ for me" working just fine though.

Quote:

Keep all disenchantment or upset the player might feel directed not at the game, but at a specific character?

If you restrict the player unnecessarily (from the player's POV) or try to enforce your homebrew version of morality on him (or her), then, chances are, that player will be feeling discontent with your game, not the in-game character who enforced your rules.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:

If you restrict the player unnecessarily (from the player's POV) or try to enforce your homebrew version of morality on him (or her), then, chances are, that player will be feeling discontent with your game, not the in-game character who enforced your rules.


Actually, in my personal experience when I played a fairly linear game say, Crash Bandicoot, most of my anger would be directed at the boss character themselves if I was stuck on an impossible boss level. I find this to be the same with many other games and people. From an open-ended point of view, storyline intensive games like Final Fantasy will usually get the player attached to a certain character and then have that character turn on them or betray midpoint through the game, this leads to various consequances, though hardly ever the player getting mad and leaving the game. When you think about moral, consider games such as Black and White and Fable. Both of these games force you to choose between good and evil and in most cases evil is the most rewarding with the least effort, yet some people go the extra mile just to have a pretty halo hanging over there heads.

Ciao,

BlindSide (Still too lazy to log in)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Oh yeah and speaking of GTA:SA what about the cops? Nobody likes them yet they still enjoy the game. When a player tries to access a yet still unlocked island they get hunted down severely by a flock of cops and usualy their discontent coincides with Tupac's allmighty "F*** the police!"

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Oh yeah and speaking of GTA:SA what about the cops? Nobody likes them yet they still enjoy the game. When a player tries to access a yet still unlocked island they get hunted down severely by a flock of cops and usualy their discontent coincides with Tupac's allmighty "F*** the police!"


That's the kind of restriction that annoys the hell outta me, but in the case of GTA:SA at least the game rocks so much otherwise that one can deal with the area restriction.

Aa for B&W: They don't force you, that's the point I think. Since it's up to you to do good or evil (or dish out both and stay around neutral), it's more fun. But then there's no character in B&W, you just play as one of a number of gods.

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Actually Black and White's a good example for this topic. I loved the freedom in that game and nurtured my pet. Then in the third level my creature gets taken away! That's why I ended up hating that game.

btw in Fable I went for the evilness, and I'm now wearing Jack's mask...

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Ah wavinator, always asking the bestest questions.

So, here's my take.
Quote:
Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing

Yes. I mean, playing GTA:SA I cringed every time CJ punched someone before tossing them out of their car. He could have just tossed em out but nooooo. If I could have helped this I would have.

Quote:
(In a more open-ended game) give the player freedom, then allow an NPC to take it away unless the player complies
Surely, if it makes sense within the context. I mean, if some thug threatens you and then suddenly invisible walls lock you inside a few blocks of a city, then that's kind of silly. But if a futuristic police forbids you from leaving the area, then it would make more sense.

Quote:
Keep all disenchantment or upset the player might feel directed not at the game, but at a specific character?
Aha, this is the tricky one. This relates more to the rest of the world than to the single NPC that's causing grief.

Replying to each single bullet point does take out some of the meaning of it all, so I'll reply to all three. I believe that a player will go trough that if:

  • It makes sense in the game

  • It's out-of-character for the Player Character. If CJ from GTA:SA gets coerced into killing a lot of innocents... it's not really different from what he's been doing before, so you don't really care.

  • It's not a core game mechanic (jumping from one trap to another, eventually the player realises the game is mission-based and linear, and the freedom is a façade)

  • There's light at the end of the tunnel... (oportunity for escape and/or redemption)


This would be interesting. Character attachment is mandatory though, and that's hard to accomplish.

PS: thanks Lightbringer :)

[Edited by - Madster on December 20, 2005 9:56:16 PM]

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Quote:
Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing


Morality is a very interesting question, i'm not entirely sure a player could care for their avatars morale wellbeing easily. Although there was Ultima with the 'Virtues', which in ultima 4 you had to follow in order to beat the game. It was fun to be bad sometimes and use that skull thingy to incinerate entire villages though. >:D

Quote:
(In a more open-ended game) give the player freedom, then allow an NPC to take it away unless the player complies


System Shock 2, one part in particular springs to mind (specifically when you meet up with Marie Delacroix in one of the shuttle hangers), Shodan tells me not to go inside to meet Delacroix and to follow Its orders (infact it seems to order me about alot, but this was about the only part of the game i actually had a choice.) If i went inside anyway Shodan would take away some of my upgrade modules (which It gave me for supposedly doing its bidding). It would have been interesting if i had more choices like that throughout the game, flaunting Shodans will and having virtually no upgrades, or being her tripped out lacky. :D

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Quote:
Original post by lightbringer
I can see something like "you can't fly around in this sector (without getting hunted down) unless you do mission XYZ for me" working just fine though.


Couldn't agree more! This would be very easy to accept even if it happened often, I think.
As for taking something really valuable for the player, it's an interesting twist in the story and the player should be able to appreciate that, just as long as:
1) it's the kind of thing that only happens once or twice in the whole story (it's a big event)
2) it's caused by the uber-evilness of the moment instead of some random dork, which makes it more likely for the player to hate the character and not the game
3) the player always has the option to not collaborate and wage a mini-war against the bad guy if he wants too (typical story of being blackmailed to do something bad or someone dear will die, but the hero rebels and goes to the kingpin's HQ instead to kill him, destroy his operations and rescue the kidnapped person)

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator

  • Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing



Something like this happens for some players of Shadow of the Collossus, wondering whether what "they" (or their character) are doing "the right thing." An internal conflict can arise when players feel like their character is acting selfishly, destroying what seem to be innocent collossi for selfish reasons, sometimes making the player feel squicky. Of course, the player doesn't appear to have any other optional methods for completing his quest.

I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the only other creatures in the land are small lizards over which you stand much like a collussus and can slay at will.

Grand Theft Auto also makes me feel squicky occasionally, but I didn't really have to beat up that grandma with a baseball bat, shoot those cops, etc. I guess that's when the game makes me concerned about my wellbeing, since they (the characters) didn't do anything I didn't direct them to.

I think it's wonderful that, rather than beating you over the head with overwrought cutscenes in which your character decries his moral predicament and curses his fate, the game (SotC) leaves this obsevation and reflection up to the player to discover (or not). I can't say whether it was planned that way or it's just a coincidence, but I think it makes the game great. Disclaimer: I haven't finished the game so perhaps some of this is delved into.

I feel like there's much more to be written on this.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator


  • Cause the player to be concerned about their character's moral wellbeing



You do mean emotional concern, rather than "I need 10 more Good Points to max out my Holy Meter" concern, right?

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