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Good Vs. Evil (In a truer sense)

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I belong to a couple other forums and have also been talking with some friends about the same topic, RPG's/Adventure Games almost all being centered around you defeating the pure evil enemies, or on the rare occasion you playing as pure evil and destroying the pure good enemies. As time goes on and more and more rpg's are released the idea, at least to me, is getting rather repetitive and the more that I think about it doesn't even make all that much sense. Maybe instead of having something as simple as good vs evil, which very rarely occurs in such a pure state in our world, make it a little more realistic and have more than just 2 sides to the story and/or put good AND bad in all the sides. Make it much more difficult for the player to decide who he should side with and help defend. There's good and bad in everything that happens and a story told from multiple perspectives like that would be a really intriguing game. For example even in recent history with something like WWII which could be and is often defined as good vs evil, axis vs allies, you could take it from the perspective of a young son of a german soldier who was forced into the nazi program against his will. Anyways I'm kind of just rambling so I'll stop here before I make this too long. - modchamp p.s. first post :P

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I think it comes from fairy tales, in how in fairy tales the sides of Good and Evil are almost always created/polarized to make a point in morality - so they come more from a single person's own internalization of himself (the angel and devil on your shoulders thing) rather than coming from the actual world itself. And when the story is about the study of good and evil of oneself, then one's view of the world also becomes as polarized from his own perspective, to reinforce that point. Fantasy novels then, are an extension of these as many of them are based on fairy tales as well as other less polarizing sources such as mythology. Fantasy RPGs and the stories of them, then, also become very polarized because the genre of fantasy is sort of polarized, being rooted in the tales of old, and the stories about the internalization of self.

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I really love it when (In comics/books since I haven't really seen this in a computer game but of course I would love to) in a story you really can't call anyone "evil" or "good" everyone is fighting for their own reasons which they believe are right.

For example Magneto from the X-Men does things that can be considered evil but he is only doing them to protect his people. If you can emphasize with the bad guys it makes thing so much more involving but like I said I rarely see this in games.

I agree with what you said good vs evil is over done and leave a game kind of dull in the end.

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Good point about coming from a fairy tale perspective. Though as Gantz said it really can leave a game pretty dull. Plenty of solid RPG's that just didn't click with me because of the overly cliched good vs evil. Also Gantz, I haven't seen any games like this either but would definitely love one. I'm currently working on my own adventure game and am trying to work up a nice storyline which is where all this came from in the first place.

Anyone seen any games where something like this was implemented well?

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I hate to say it, but polarity is needed. I would love for a game to have lots of grey areas, but I don't think it would sell. Partially because of all the negative publicity it would get, and partially because I believe people actually like polarity.

Let's take the Spiderman scenario. You have to save either person A or B. Rather, you have to choose which person is going to die. At least with games which you play the villain, it's fictionalized enough that despite getting negative comments from the media, they can overlook it. And then you'll have the fanboys who will stop at no end to try to figure out how to save both. If you don't allow a clear good path, this can create some confusion with your audience, as it gives a lack of a sense of reward.

I think the best neutral games are probably RPGs similar to Fallout or Planescape Torment. There are few neutral movies and books let alone games though at the moment.

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I don't know about that. I think it could easily be quite well received. As I said polarity doesn't really exist in the world, really no pure evil or pure good people in this world. So really a game like this would just be a lot truer to how things actually happen in real life and would open it up for all kinds of perspectives. Not to mention the simple fact that it'd be different which from what I've heard from a lot of people they're at a point where they want a different style of game.

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I personally don't believe in real life evil. I think anyone who would do evil is either disturbed, misguided, or short sighted. Enemies are the absolute worst elements a person can accumulate, and being evil requires the creation of too many enemies. It's just a bad strategy.

That's why I often enjoy the concept of pure evil in some games. You can hack and slash until you've gotten your fix, because you don't have to worry about any of them being decent people. They aren't fathers, mothers, sons, or daughters to anyone. No one will miss their passing. Slay the horde, feel no guilt, and enjoy the exercise.

However, a great story requires a magnificent bad guy. That's someone who does bad or selfish things to push forward, but who is also compassionate and occasionally forgiving. Someone who forms bonds of friendship and trust with his bad-guy comrades. Let's face it, it's hard enough taking over the world, it doesn't need to be made harder by having your own lackeys wanting to kill you. Realistic evil isn't mindless murder. It's calculated selfishness. And that type of intelligent selfishness almost always appears to be non-evil.

Similarly, what good does it do to harm an innocent person if it doesn't further or protect your agenda? Therefore, a great bad guy doesn't harm innocent people beyound such meaningful objectives. He has honor, decent integrity, and even some humanity. It's just that his goals ultimately lead to a worse type of future for everyone else, and that means the good guy is forced to stop him.

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Dressing up good and evil in no unambiguous terms makes it easy for everyone to relate to the good guys and see the evil ones as the antagonists. In other words, it's about maximizing the size of the receptive audience, which is probably why it's been such a popular thing in literacy since the dawn of history.

Yet, there are examples of significant works that don't do that. In games, GTA and Hitman come to mind as a prominent examples. Granted, it may not be the story elements that get people to play those games, but playing a somewhat morally ambiguous character doesn't seem to be a problem. What's interesting in many recent games is that it's the player that gets to choose how they play. So for example, in GTA you can have sex with a prostitute and then murder her to get your money back, but the game doesn't force you to do that (in fact, there's no benefit at all in doing that).

I suppose the good vs. evil trick is just one way to captivate the audience. If you don't use that, you need to give some other excuse for the player to stick with the story.

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Original post by Mathmo
deus ex. You never quite know who the good guys are. Similarly deus ex 2, although the first was better IMO

I loved the original game, but that was one aspect that I disliked about it. It went out of its way to make sure the player knew that they were in the bad by killing foes. Advice: don't attempt to make your players feel bad about exploring the primary gameplay of your game. If you're creating a game where shooting people should be fun, don't actually try to make players question the morality of doing so. It is a video game, and the people are fictional, but that doesn't mean players can't feel guilty while playing it. Sleep darts just don't pack the same amount of satisfying punch as a bullet.

If reasonable, do the exact opposite. This is a big reason why zombies, monsters, mind-cleansed lackeys, and man-enslaving robots are great fun to shoot and kill. There is no moral dilemma preventing the player from indulging themselves in destructive fun. It's satisfying violence and death that serves a good purpose.

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I'm surprised nobody mentioned "The Witcher" yet.

Its single most important feature is that all the choices you have to make during the game are never clearly good or clearly evil. That, and you often need to decide based on incomplete knowledge.

As a simple example that hopefully won't spoil the game for anyone, you can take on the task of guarding a merchant's goods during the night in exchange for an important item. The expected thieves indeed come but aren't what you were told, the merchant has been abusing his power to steal goods from the would-be thieves. Now, do you honor your promise to guard the merchant's goods (and kill innocents) or do you help the victims of the merchant (and break your word)?

The Witcher is full of these situations, the only way to decide is to express your own character, there seldom is a clear right/wrong or good/evil choice.

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Offhand, it occurs to me that an advantage of the good vs. evil scheme is that you can establish clear side benefits/penalties associated to choices. Taking Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as an example, choices that favor light or dark benefit/penalize a player in the use of certain powers/abilities, based on their own location on the light/dark spectrum. Want to lightning blast somebody in the chest? Better be on the Dark Side, or else it's gonna cost you!

In my mind, there's two ways through which you can emulate moral ambiguity in the quest choices:
1) Make it unclear what the end result of specific choices will be. Thus, people have to thing of the likely repercussions of specific actions.

2) Take away the whole notion of clear good/bad and make all choices somewhere in the gray area.

In either case, in order to maintain this notion of benefit/penalty associated to specific choices, you now need to implement specific checks and balances for each and every individual decision in the game. Not only would this be difficult to develop, but it would also take away from the player a clear sense of direction, e.g. "If I make this choice, will this bring me closer to my goals?". And if you confuse the player, you lose them...

So, what are you left with? Remove the bonus/penalty system altogether and make the player's choices simply a mechanic for progression in the game plot itself, not a feature of character development.

It occurs to me at this point, though, that this argument only applies to RPGs. Since adventure games mainly focus on the plot and there is not traditionally a notion of character development, this would not be a problem. It then falls to the writers to make more morally ambiguous storylines, something I'd be glad to see in future Adventure game projects.

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I'm actually currently working on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting based on the idea of ignoring good versus evil.

It's based off of law versus chaos, and now it's not the generic big-holy-and-orderly-society-of-piety going up against the dark-and-evil-bands-of-loosely-related-bad-guys. The "lawful" society embraces both good and evil equally, as does the "chaotic" society. Races now have their archetypes, which are much different than the norm. It's humans/dwarves/gnomes on the lawful side, and it's elves/orcs/halflings on the chaotic side. Humans, elves, and halflings are the "good" races, and dwarves, gnomes, and orcs are the "evil" races.

I'm liking how it's working out so far, I just have to find a way to give the PCs a motive to stay together. Why would the neutral-good elf ranger stick with the chaotic-evil orc and the chaotic-neutral halfling when he could go hang out with the lawful-neutral dwarf and the neutral-good human that seemingly more fit his personal convictions?

Edit: I was making this campaign setting before I even checked out WAR, so it's not taken from there.

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Original post by Cygon
The Witcher is full of these situations, the only way to decide is to express your own character, there seldom is a clear right/wrong or good/evil choice.
Another really cool thing about the Witcher's choices, is that with some of the choices, what you choose BECOMES the path of your character. It's not like you get it right/wrong, it's like the game is asking you which way to go with the story.

Also, the NPCs aren't hard-coded to be good/evil; one of them is quite pleasant and fun to chat with, but later filled bit by bit with hatred by those who fear and hate. And for others, what evil they do/did is their sins, or interpretable.

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I'd say the way Mass Effect is going is a lot better (and also the way they almost went in Jade Empire, but never quite implemented) - rather than having good and evil, have more subtle ones. Do the ends justify the means, do you help people, or help them to help themselves, etc. What's good? Is helping once good, or is it evil by putting off their learning to cope for themselves (ie: the main left wing / right wing argument)?

A nice example of this was in one fo the Fallout games.

[quote=Wiki]At one point in Fallout's development, in Junktown, if the player aided local sheriff Killian Darkwater in killing the criminal Gizmo, Killian would take his pursuit of the law much too far to the point of tyranny, and force Junktown to stagnate. However, if the player killed Killian for Gizmo, then Gizmo would help Junktown prosper for his own benefit. The game's publisher did not like this bit of moral ambiguity and had the outcomes changed to an alternate state, where aiding Killian results in the "good" ending.[4][/quote]

A shame that was cut really; if implemented properly with hints of what would happen if you dug into it, then it could really have been effective.

Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by Mathmo
deus ex. You never quite know who the good guys are. Similarly deus ex 2, although the first was better IMO

I loved the original game, but that was one aspect that I disliked about it. It went out of its way to make sure the player knew that they were in the bad by killing foes. Advice: don't attempt to make your players feel bad about exploring the primary gameplay of your game. If you're creating a game where shooting people should be fun, don't actually try to make players question the morality of doing so. It is a video game, and the people are fictional, but that doesn't mean players can't feel guilty while playing it. Sleep darts just don't pack the same amount of satisfying punch as a bullet.

If reasonable, do the exact opposite. This is a big reason why zombies, monsters, mind-cleansed lackeys, and man-enslaving robots are great fun to shoot and kill. There is no moral dilemma preventing the player from indulging themselves in destructive fun. It's satisfying violence and death that serves a good purpose.


You so missed the point of Deus Ex. The point of it was that it WASN'T mindless killing like most FPSes. That really goes to show that it depends on what sort of game - and what sort of market - you are going for.

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Quote:
Original post by Captain Griffen
Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by Mathmo
deus ex. You never quite know who the good guys are. Similarly deus ex 2, although the first was better IMO

I loved the original game, but that was one aspect that I disliked about it. It went out of its way to make sure the player knew that they were in the bad by killing foes. Advice: don't attempt to make your players feel bad about exploring the primary gameplay of your game. If you're creating a game where shooting people should be fun, don't actually try to make players question the morality of doing so. It is a video game, and the people are fictional, but that doesn't mean players can't feel guilty while playing it. Sleep darts just don't pack the same amount of satisfying punch as a bullet.

If reasonable, do the exact opposite. This is a big reason why zombies, monsters, mind-cleansed lackeys, and man-enslaving robots are great fun to shoot and kill. There is no moral dilemma preventing the player from indulging themselves in destructive fun. It's satisfying violence and death that serves a good purpose.


You so missed the point of Deus Ex. The point of it was that it WASN'T mindless killing like most FPSes. That really goes to show that it depends on what sort of game - and what sort of market - you are going for.

I understood the point. But that doesn't change the fact that shooting was the core gameplay of the game. It could have avoided being mindless without reducing the fun of shooting.

And although it doesn't make much of a difference to the topic, I seriously doubt the point of Deus Ex was to not be like other games. As a designer, that's a terrible concept to start a game out with.

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On the matter of Deus Ex, to be honest, I seem to recall that I rather enjoyed taking the "no killing" route, and was rather disappointed when it became difficult to keep up later in the game, with the introduction of enemies that were, as I recall, immune to the standard sleep weapons.

Quote:
Originally posted by MOD_CHAMPION
Anyone seen any games where something like this was implemented well?


I'm inclined to suggest Gabriel Knight 2 - an old game now, admittedly. While it did have a fairly clear path to take, the characters of Gabriel and the primary villain were not pure white and black, respectively. In fact, as I recall, the plot to a large extent draws on Gabriel not being perfect, and the main villain is actually, I think, highly sympathetic.

Quote:
Originally posted by Tangireon
I think it comes from fairy tales, in how in fairy tales the sides of Good and Evil are almost always created/polarized to make a point in morality


While that's probably very true of the modern versions of fairy tales, I don't think (although, my knowledge being a little limited here, I stand for correction) that it's true, or at least, as true, of the older versions, before they were altered in more recent times to be more "suitable" (this probably coincides with their becoming viewed as children's stories, I would imagine).

According to Wikipedia's article on Sleeping Beauty, for instance, an older version of the story involves Sleeping Beauty giving birth, and being woken when one of her children tries to suckle on her finger and sucks out the piece of flax that had resulted in her sleep, amongst other (less pleasant) things.

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A truer sense for putting morals and good/evil into a game about killing people?

Robin Hood stole from the rich because they have better stuff. And he paid off his relatively poor lackeys with some of the loot. That's my take.

I kill folks, but THAT GUY did it for MONEY! Oh that hineous bastige! So I feel better about my crimes excuses killing him. (and I guess I might as well confiscate that money from the evil doer while I'm at it).

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