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What are various ways to "do evil/bad" or "do good" in a game?

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I'm (slowly) working on a game that hinges on the idea of "doing good" and "doing bad" (where "bad" is something that's detrimental or harmful to others (NPCs, the environment, anything), and "good" is the opposite of that... whatever that is). However, I'm struggling with how to represent "doing good" and "doing bad" in a game in such a way that it allows for fun game mechanics while still getting the point across of good/bad. Also, I'm hoping for it to be at least somewhat family friendly, so if violence is used I don't want it to be overdone (I'm not really targeting kids, but I'm also not interested in ripping someone's guts out and eating them in this game).

So what are various ways to represent doing good and doing bad in a game, and what kind of game mechanics do various methods invite?

One idea I've had is removing color from things/the world (bad) and restoring color to things/the world (good) (similar to what I think Aether did, though I've never played it). I'm kind of unsure of what game mechanics would go well with this idea, but so far I'm thinking a puzzley platformer might allow for interesting ways to remove/restore color. But I'm still fuzzy on details

Another incomplete idea I've had is killing living things (bad) and... what would be good? Restoring them to life? I don't plan on having NPCs do the killing, so I can't have "defending people from the bad guys" be "good." I'm unsure of this one, because I can't really think of what would be "doing good" or how to implement that in the game if "doing bad" is violence/killing people.

What other ideas are there that convey doing good and doing bad?

FYI, this is a 2D game, if that affects any ideas you may have. I haven't really settled on specific game mechanics (i.e. is it a puzzler, or platformer, etc) because I'm unsure of how to represent doing good and doing bad, and I want the game mechanics to nicely blend with doing good and doing bad, so I'm taking a step back and thinking of various ways to do good and bad.

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I think what you are trying to do is very interesting. I like the fact that you don't automatically resort to violence as the good/evil separation as too many games resort to this, ie finish quest and either kill NPC or not.

The entire concept of good/evil has its roots in religion so you could try to base some of the decisions on that. You could have levels based on the seven deadly sins (of course, lust might make the game pretty adult) or look at the ten commandments. Good is actually harder to portray than evil because a lot of being good is simply NOT doing evil things.

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Stealing from NPCs = bad. Donating money to NPCs (i.e. charity) = good? ... (actuallu, I think, that this was one set of good/bad actions that Ultima IV had...) Edited by jwezorek

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Personally I think it's easier to determine figure out how to represent karma AFTER the type of game is worked out.

For instance:
Strategy - good could result in small boosts to various things such as higher crop yield, scientific breakthrough, better battle odds and bad could result in small penalties such as higher disaster chance, worse combat odds, etc.
RPG - karma here could affect the type of treasures found, chance of finding secrets, maybe even a special quest (either a good aligned quest or a bad aligned quest). The most obvious for RPG's is that karma determines the skills and class abilities, even spell lists of the player.

I could go on, but there's a lot of genres and my lunch break has run out. :)

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The entire concept of good/evil has its roots in religion so you could try to base some of the decisions on that. You could have levels based on the seven deadly sins (of course, lust might make the game pretty adult) or look at the ten commandments. Good is actually harder to portray than evil because a lot of being good is simply NOT doing evil things.

That's interesting. In fact, this game is actually based on religion (though not traditional Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism); more on eastern traditions with karma; I got the idea in my world religions class). In most of these eastern religions, losing bad karma seems to be done more through meditation, reading scriptures, and specifically not doing bad things. I'm hoping to think of additional ideas that represent "good" that don't require the player to sit there and meditate (because that's not very fun).



Stealing from NPCs = bad. Donating money to NPCs (i.e. charity) = good? ... (actuallu, I think, that this was one set of good/bad actions that Ultima IV had...)

That's a good idea. And if the player is poor, gathering needed items for others (like harvesting food for a starving NPC) could be "good."


Personally I think it's easier to determine figure out how to represent karma AFTER the type of game is worked out.

For instance:
Strategy - good could result in small boosts to various things such as higher crop yield, scientific breakthrough, better battle odds and bad could result in small penalties such as higher disaster chance, worse combat odds, etc.
RPG - karma here could affect the type of treasures found, chance of finding secrets, maybe even a special quest (either a good aligned quest or a bad aligned quest). The most obvious for RPG's is that karma determines the skills and class abilities, even spell lists of the player.

I could go on, but there's a lot of genres and my lunch break has run out. smile.png

Interesting ideas, but I'm more curious about how to generate/lose karma and not really its side effects. But I think you're right in that settling the game play more would possibly help give specific ideas.

Keep the juices flowing!

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I'm struggling with how to represent "doing good" and "doing bad" in a game in such a way that it allows for fun game mechanics while still getting the point across of good/bad.


Lots of games provide good things to do to game characters. Look at Animal Crossing, for instance. Little girl can't find her hula hoop. So find it and roll it back to her house. Old lady needs to cross the street. Hold her hand and help her.
And look at the GTA games for bad things. Steal cars. Drive the wrong way down one-way streets. Park in illegal parking spots, or park on grass. Throw litter. Kick a dog. Sell drugs.

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It depends on the cultural norms you want to establish. It could actually be a really neat exercise to write/explore>play in a culture unlike anything we are used to and learning what that culture considers good/acceptable or bad/taboo. Learning a new way to live. Where the "F" word can be said in front of your grandmother but giving a high-five is illegal. No matter what the cultural norms however, your first step is to determine the actions you'd like the player to explore, (gather objects, help someone, move something, build something, find something, etc).

Check out lists of verbs and find ones that stick out for you and write out a situation based on the verb. Take the action and consider the most wonderful outcome that could follow that action (affecting the character or affecting many people) and the worst and you're dichotomy is set.

I would like to point out that the great part of most stories is exploring the grey area of things. When the worst actions can be justified where morality as we know it crumbles under circumstance. Creating a third option for players to explore good, bad and subjective.

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One RPG which implements a nice karma system is Star wars KOTOR. Basically in a RPG when you have a quest to help a guy you accept it, you help him and you can't do nothing really special ( and you increase your karma ). In KOTOR, you can help him (+2 Karma), ask for reward ( -1 ), insist for more rewards ( -3 ). After that the "quest mode" is finished but the new thing is that you can kill the NPC for even more rewards ( -7 ).

And that's really nice because even if you try to help him at the end you have premeditate to kill him for a lot of rewards and your actions are not limited by the "quest mode".

With your example of restoring life, if it's to torture the NPC ( = resurrected a lot of time in a short period of time ), the player should lose a lot of karma. Of course, it can be tricky to judge that. For example, if you are the only healer and you try to revive/heal your warrior to kill this ***** band of monsters, but it should be nice to see something like that.

Another thing quite nice in Star Wars KOTOR, is the fact that at a period of the game you have to be an inspector/judge for a crime (?) and that's really nice because you really have to think about what is right and not just "good and bad". Edited by Rakilonn

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I'm (slowly) working on a game that hinges on the idea of "doing good" and "doing bad" (where "bad" is something that's detrimental or harmful to others (NPCs, the environment, anything), and "good" is the opposite of that... whatever that is). However, I'm struggling with how to represent "doing good" and "doing bad" in a game in such a way that it allows for fun game mechanics while still getting the point across of good/bad. Also, I'm hoping for it to be at least somewhat family friendly, so if violence is used I don't want it to be overdone (I'm not really targeting kids, but I'm also not interested in ripping someone's guts out and eating them in this game).

So what are various ways to represent doing good and doing bad in a game, and what kind of game mechanics do various methods invite?

One idea I've had is removing color from things/the world (bad) and restoring color to things/the world (good) (similar to what I think Aether did, though I've never played it). I'm kind of unsure of what game mechanics would go well with this idea, but so far I'm thinking a puzzley platformer might allow for interesting ways to remove/restore color. But I'm still fuzzy on details

Another incomplete idea I've had is killing living things (bad) and... what would be good? Restoring them to life? I don't plan on having NPCs do the killing, so I can't have "defending people from the bad guys" be "good." I'm unsure of this one, because I can't really think of what would be "doing good" or how to implement that in the game if "doing bad" is violence/killing people.

What other ideas are there that convey doing good and doing bad?

FYI, this is a 2D game, if that affects any ideas you may have. I haven't really settled on specific game mechanics (i.e. is it a puzzler, or platformer, etc) because I'm unsure of how to represent doing good and doing bad, and I want the game mechanics to nicely blend with doing good and doing bad, so I'm taking a step back and thinking of various ways to do good and bad.


About the thing that you are unsure what doing good is when doing bad is killing things.. so if good defend against bad then they are bad as well because they are killing the bad.
Well I think you have to think about the reason they are killing not just that they are killing.
Or do you think the u.s army and all soldiers in the world are evil?
do you think police are evil?
(Personally I do lol but we are talking about theory and ideally not what happens in practise and corruptness)

So you must think about the reason they are killing.
It's been like this in pretty much all games I can think of though so it wouldn't really be a breakthrough.

The thing you said about remoivng color from the world..

You could make a minecraft clone or terrarria clone if you want sidescroller.
And make just official servers with the same rules.. no player hosted servers where they create their own rules and destroy the entire point of the game.

Make the rules so players can destroy what other players have built.
and kill any other player they want and take all their items.

That is evil right.

And then good can be people defending and protecting, hunting these evil players down.
maybe you can think of a good way so good players can repair what these evil players done.

hunt them down and track down the items they took and bring them back to their rightful owner.

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I think you could involve some interesting twists here.


what would be good? Restoring them to life?


For example, is bringing them back to life a good thing? You're interfering with nature's course, you're causing over-population by introducing more people who need to die. You might in some's view be stopping them getting into heaven.

Play with the concept, morality is not black or white, it's usually very grey.

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