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Real karma

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What would you think about a game that employs real karma? In most games, the actions that lead to bad karma already have benefits. When you kill and steal from people, you obtain their things. So this concept is associated only with good karma. First, karma would be earned in the traditional way of doing good things. Passing up self-profiting opportunities to help other people, and things like that. Help an old lady across the street, earn 5 karma. Take out a psycho threatening hostages, earn 50 karma. Karma would then be constantly spent in the "background" of the game. It could produce luck, help from others, etc. Essentially what it means is that if you have a lot of karma, a guardian angel has your back. When people try to kick you while you're down, fate steps in to nail them. The game most likely wouldn't tell the player when and how much karma they earn. There would be no way to determine how much karma you have, and no way to determine when it is being automatically spent, except when the result is obvious. For example, you walk into a doorway, some guy starts to jump you from behind, and you don't notice him (player doesn't look back). He accidentally drops his shotgun and stumbles over it, alerting you of his presence. Now he has to pick it up and fire before you can react. Was that karma? Maybe. There really isn't any limits as to what I could cause karma to do in the game. But I would want to avoid tipping the balance of anything that's meant to provide a challenge. In a lose-lose situation, it could be used to pull the player back from the edge. But then again, if it's too reliable, it may allow the player to walk into lose-lose situations on purpose. Any thoughts?

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I really like this idea. It rewards players for taking the good side.

However, I do think it needs to be made very apparent to the end user that karma has influenced something around them. If it’s all invisible and the player never sees it, why implement it? At this point it becomes something of a hidden game difficulty adjustment and nothing more. Out of site, out mind. The player will never really be able to correlate their actions between doing good and having good “luck”.

Maybe even some sort of a simply screen effect like a little flash of light or something that lets people know karma is working for them.

And why not have bad karma? The rewards for doing evil deeds could be quite significant except the player will learn that there may be a cost to pay later on in the game. Maybe bad karma could be signified by a dark flash or something to let them know their evil deeds are coming back to haunt them.

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While I can certainly see the mechanics reasons one might want to make the player aware of the karma effects ...
personally, when I'm playing a game, the most compelling feature for me is immersion.

I believe I would gain more enjoyment from the mystery than having it spelled out to me.
All too often in games I find what I consider the "magic" ruined by the creators opening up the hatch and showing me what's going on behind the scenes.

I'd say there is something to be gained by obfuscating such things from the player, like we used to see more frequently games. Remember when folks were always forming their own superstitions and corelations based around the game ... does holding the B button on the second shake really help me keep that pokemon in the pokeball, or is it just my imagination?
And to me, that mystery, it added a surprising ammount to the greater experience.


I think the key to keeping such a system from being just a behind the scenes difficulty adjustment is to focus less on difficulty effects and more on emotional effects. Subtly alter the story arc, or change the way NPC's react to the player ... things like that.

That's not to say you can't have concrete effects ... but you must be sure to balance them out.
The longterm perks conffered upon the player by the Karma system should be roughly equal to the short term gains the player aquires though more selfish actions.
In this way you are not mechanically punishing the player for not playing in your perfered style ... it's probably best to keep that on the emotional side of the experience.

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I, too, think that keeping such things hidden and letting the palyer wonder about them is a good idea. I'm not to sure about the idea of Karma itself though. I like stealing and being a bad boy in games. I'm not allowed to go whale on hobos in real life but having a play ground to do things like that is a big attraction. Bringing in morals from outside that encourage me, or worse, force me, to be good lessens the pleasure. That is a delicate balance though, I enjoy guards in games that dont let me steal so long as they are not omniscient because then I can evade them. That becomes a challenge which I like. Karma though is omniscient. I can't evade it. If It was evadable it would be like an uber-guard, and I would like that.

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The best way of expressing karma to the play would be in others' reactions to him/her. Now you've got to take into consideration that all of a player's actions wouldn't instantly be known to all NPCs (I hate it when guards know I've stolen something when there's no way they could have seen, heard, or been told that).

But if you do enough things publically...kill, threaten, lie, etc. people in a locality (a town, a part of town) would learn more about you as time went on and as you acted more.

I think you're right that you don't want it to make things too easy for a player. Depending on the type of game they might just farm karma (even in a sp game) to the point to where nothing can hurt them.

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Vanquish, I think you are mixing up karma with reputation. People hate you for killing, stealing, and knocking down old ladies, but Karma will knock you down for knocking down old ladies no matter if anyone else knows. You can kill someone in the middle of the woods and no one has to find out for karma to make a tree fall on you as you walk away.

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As far as hiding karma, I would want the player to know it's happening, I just wouldn't want them to know exactly when and how often. They'll see good things happen, and sometimes it will be karma, and sometimes it will be chance. I think not knowing actually boosts the incentive to do good things, while strangely making it more easily dismissible if you want to do bad things.

Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
I like stealing and being a bad boy in games. I'm not allowed to go whale on hobos in real life but having a play ground to do things like that is a big attraction. Bringing in morals from outside that encourage me, or worse, force me, to be good lessens the pleasure. That is a delicate balance though, I enjoy guards in games that dont let me steal so long as they are not omniscient because then I can evade them. That becomes a challenge which I like. Karma though is omniscient. I can't evade it. If It was evadable it would be like an uber-guard, and I would like that.

That was one of the reasons I wasn't going to do anything with bad karma. If you obtain good karma, good background things start to happen. If you obtain bad karma, nothing happens in the background.

Doing bad things would probably have other positive effects, like a tough reputation, which would help you push your way around with words. Good guys would have a problem with the opposite effect. If everyone knows you don't hurt people without good reason, it will become difficult to intimidate anyone who isn't trying to do something rather bad.

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Karma - (informal definition) destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

This could be quite interesting with good and bad karma, it jsut needs to be balanced such that players don't feel pressured. In fact, its may be a metter method of balancing behaviors anyway. Currently, you get a reward for doing good, and nothing or a negative for doing bad. Assuming you evade the guard and get no negative for doing bad, you get to keep the resultant stolen goods that are often involved. Rarely though is the game balancing the reward of good actions against the 'reward' for bad ones. You can often steal much better loot than you get as rewards, or the same loot can be stolen for less effort than it takes to earn it as a reward for doing good. With Karma you can balance the eventual outcomes against the actions more easily. If done well, you no longer have a pressure to do either good or bad because each has a neutral result, or a result slightly positive leaning.

If you steal, or murder, etc, you get an immediate reward, but bad karma punishes you. If you are good, you choose a hard path that has little reward at times, but the good karma keeps disasters, like a dagger in the back, at bay.

So long as the end result balances out so the player doesn't feel pressured one way or the other it can be great.

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It's an interesting idea. If your audience is geeky enough and hardcore, they're going to try to reverse engineer it, but that's not sufficient reason not to do it.

One thing I would worry about would be the whole A causes B and B causes C scenario of diffuse / distributed cause and effect. The best way I've seen it expressed is: There's some evil bad monster chasing people who are running toward a bridge. You take out the bridge, thus saving the people. But because it's indirect, do you get credit for it? If you were to kill the evil bad monster, sure, it's easy to measure because its direct. But doing something as simple as opening a door could aid someone, yet unless you have very strictly defined karma scenarios I can see it being challenging to detect both from a player POV and a developer POV.

Would you use some kind of UI to indicate what did and didn't have karma? For instance, a skull & crossbones over the psycho's head means "take this guy out and get something cool" even if it's much later down the road. That way, you at least give the player some boundary conditions so they don't apply human level expectations to a programmatic system, saying to their friends, "well, this game is supposed to be tracking when I do something good, but I've been blocking traffic with my car to help the old lady every time and it hasn't given me squat."

EDIT: Oh, yeah, and about that blocking the car thing. Is it a good action if it makes people late to work? Or stops an ambulance from getting through? I just realized another (even bigger) danger is oversimplifying to fit the requirements of a programmatic system. You may end up being forced to create very black and white situations, implying a somewhat facile, morally arbitrary universe-- something you wouldn't have with, say, a faction system with reputation, where doing good can produce harm in a potentially more dramatic, intellectually engaging way.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
There's some evil bad monster chasing people who are running toward a bridge. You take out the bridge, thus saving the people. But because it's indirect, do you get credit for it?

I think that's one of the positive side effects of making the karma so obscure and difficult to measure. If the game can't handle the karma with something perfectly, or doesn't handle karma with it at all, no one can detect it, and must do the right thing anyway, if they want a good character. You can't "test" something to see if you lose out on karma by doing it or not doing it. You just have to go with your instincts instead of playing the system.

Personally, I wouldn't measure karma the way I've seen in some games. My game's atmosphere is pretty dark. Meaning bad things are normal, normal things are good, and good things are unheard of. For example, theft from commercial areas isn't considered bad. In fact, part of being good is going to be sticking it to the man to help the little guy. IE, stealing massive amounts of things from commercial areas (like food and medicine) to help people.

I'll probably try to indicate these things through dialog with average citizen characters. After all, the average person's perspective should be an indication of what's right and wrong. If most average people think it's good to stick it to the man, then sticking it to the man is okay.

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