virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)
I ran across a gaming blog post (somewhere) that postulated that games should sometimes punish people for taking the good (or "good") option, instead of always rewarding them. While they were discussing standalone computer games (and I see some potential problems with punishing people for doing good things in game), I think they're on to something.

Then again, I could just have a sadistic streak.

Seriously, though, I do think game designers sacrifice story (and sometimes all logic) in their desire to not punish players for their choices. Especially if those choices are the good ones. Now, maybe they're right and players would feel punished if good choices had logical fall out. But I suspect that most players would prefer an awesome story, even if their character has a shitty time of it, and even if their good choices mean that sometimes bad things happen to their character or they miss out on a reward or whatever.

I support my theory with the fact that nearly everyone deems the Agent story the best in SW:TOR even though it has (regardless of moral choices) your character go through hell to do their job, not to mention get screwed over by their own government. One actually has the sense that their could be fall out from making Light Side decisions in that story, and there may be a time or two, minorly. (I can't always remember what choices were LS/DS and what were regular conversation.) I suspect that if they had included actual fall out from LS decisions, the story would've only been deemed more memorable and awesome.

In contrast, the Sith Warrior story has, so far, lacked any sense of threat surrounding LS choices because your master just invents reasons for them. It takes a way part of the fun of playing a Light Side Imperial to feel that you could plant the Jedi flag in your master's chamber and dance around it singing "Go Republic!" and he'd just pat you on the head and complement your brilliant plan.


I just realized that, in a sense, making sure not to punish the character for non-faction-consistent actions kind of does end up punishing the player. It damages the immersiveness of the game and damages the story of the game. To put it in tabletop roleplaying terms, it leaves you with a gamemaster who's afraid to let anything bad happen to the characters no matter what the players choose. This isn't a good thing.

The fall out should be in-genre, of course, but there should be fall out. It can be minor and mission specific (my favorite early moment of the game actually does this - the Agent story mission Dark Meeting proves that being Honor Before Reason with Sith is...not wise) or it could be alternate missions prompted by previous choices (a little like how the romance stories with companions work - you flirt, you get the romance stories, you don't, you don't) - and if you get sufficiently dark as a Jedi, say, you get a little intervention meeting with important Jedi who are worried about you or if you get sufficiently light as a Sith, you get a threatening meeting with important Sith who are suspicious of you.

Likewise, too many good deeds as an agent should get some sort of either "I know what you're doing, you may get yourself horribly killed" or "I suspect you of treason" meeting with Keeper (Depending on exactly what Keeper's moral leanings are supposed to be. I'm still not entirely sure... So perhaps a threatening ambiguous meeting would be best... is he hinting that what you're doing is dangerous or is he hinting that he'll be happy to put you in front of a firing squad, give you to the Sith, whatever they do to traitors).

Being too Dark Side as a Smuggler could trigger problems with Republic customs. (Though - and this is another story fail due to being afraid players would feel punished - the story only ONCE notices that you are a frickin' criminal. The story would be vastly improved by people, you know, noticing.  More lines of dialogue indicating that people are suspicious of you, or surprised by your heroics, or... ANYTHING.)

I have no ideas for Trooper or Bounty Hunter because the Trooper reports to someone who wouldn't likely object to them being Dark Side and Light Side and Dark Side have no meaning for Bounty Hunters.  If Troopers reported to someone who wasn't evil, then I'd say they should be brought in for discussion of how their risking a court martial if they're Dark Side.  If the alignments had meaning on a Bounty Hunter, I'd say that they should be threatened for breaking the Creed or giving Bounty Hunters a bad name by being unreliable and sometimes not doing what you were hired to do. Or something.

I mean, I loooove the letter of face palm*, but I would love it ten times more if a bounty hunter hired by her aggrieved husband showed up later.  Or, hell, even if you just got a second letter from the husband promising to hire a bounty hunter as soon as he could afford it.  Sith should be a lot more peeved if you don't do as they tell you (logically this would go away as a Sith character got higher level and more powerful, but on Agents and Bounty Hunters?  You should just get used to pain.)  The Republic should be upset if someone acting in their name is committing evil acts (then again, they don't notice all the Republic NPCs doing so...).

Generally speaking, games should care more about the story and less about the immediate rewards.  Have things play out the way they would in that genre, in that setting, with those people.  If that means that sometimes being good sucks, then, well, sometimes being good sucks.  You should get a reputation based on your actions and that should change how people react to you - for better or worse.  (And, hell, there would be times when having a bad reputation might be advantageous.  "Oh, god, it's the Slaughterer!  She never leaves anyone alive!" *NPCs flee the area, abandoning their stations and letting you walk in and get/do what you came for*  Conversely, a good deed might result in an NPC going "Wait, don't shoot him, he saved my brother!" and getting everyone to stand down and let you get/do what you came for.)  Committing crimes - for good or ill - should come back to haunt you.  Not behaving as your faction deems appropriate should bite you in the ass.  I think most players would be too damn entertained to care if sometimes being good meant that their character got a beating instead of a reward.  I also think that, the better the story you tell, the more the story itself becomes the reward.

I'm less comfortable with more serious versions of the idea, simply because I would rather fiction didn't say "doing good is pointless" or "being evil leads to success."  I realize some measure of that is true in reality, but I want my fiction to be better than reality.  (Which is not to say that people shouldn't make games with those messages - I just want them to market them clearly so that only people who do like grim fiction buy them.  I would, for example, expect a Song of Ice and Fire game to operate under those rules because that's how that fictional world works.  Good fails.  Evil succeeds. Or fails.  Because it is a world of suck.  And the people who like the books would want that.)

* As it's a minor spoiler for a mission on Imperial Balmorra, scroll to the bottom of this entry
virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)
First, the nonspoilery review of the two classes I've finished (and they will come as a surprise to no one).

Agent: Totally awesome!  Epic fun spy fiction along the lines of James Bond (though less ruthless if you play Light Side).  Oddly enough, quite possibly the furthest to the Idealism side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs Cynicism, if played Light Side.  The vast majority of LS choices line up nicely with good (though I will note that many only work because this is an idealistic story as you are frequently endangering your mission by being LS) and it is tropetastic in the best possible sense.

Smuggler: I love the dialogue options, but the story did not hold up at all well. I felt like it's twists were more on the order of retcons and the story just felt a bit generic.  (Rather than centered on you/your chosen career the way the Agent story is.)  While it still has a number of LS choices that are on the idealistic side and the story itself could still be argued to be, it's set in a not-so-idealistic world.

Now for the more spoilery class reviews and some tweaks that I think would have made the game a ton better.

Spoilers under cut )

virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)
First, let me apologize for the long pause in writing! I am so sorry, life and a bit of writer's block has slowed me down. I will get the rest of "Conflicts of Interest" written, I promise!

I don't remember exactly when last December I started playing. I know it was slightly after launch, though by game time I was in it from the beginning. I had to replace my computer in order to play (except for the video card) and I know we didn't get the new one made until after the game launched. In any event, I've been playing for about a year, and loving it. Best. MMO. Ever. (That I have played, anyway.)

So... my one year commentary. The game is mostly awesome, but with a few things I wish were different.

I burbble about the game )
*The fact that I can't decide if the game is presenting a conflict that is Black and White (but with a lot of good people on the wrong side and a lot of evil people on the good side) or Black and Black (with a lot of hapless good people caught up in it) or meant to be Black and White and the writers failed hard makes my fan fic very hard to write sometimes. In fact, that's why I'm having writer's block at the moment, I think. My knowledge of the world is interfering with my characters making in character decisions. They don't have my knowledge, though. They don't know about Belsavis and a whole bunch of other stuff. Argl.

virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)
I've noted a time or two already that the factions of SW:TOR do not tidily break down to Good (the Republic) vs. Evil (the Empire).  Which is actually kind of nice and, at least in my opinion, better than the Protagonist-Centered Morality Good vs. Evil of the prequel movies.  (It's even better than the Good vs. Evil of the original movies, especially if people are going to be playing both factions.)  But I've noticed some odd things about it.

Cut for mild spoilers and space saving )

virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)

As I said in a previous post, I think SW:TOR has killed WoW for me. I am loving having a voice acted story so much that I don't think I can go back. I'll put up with it so I can hang out with my superheroes, but even that will be hard. The moment someone makes a superhero MMO along the lines of SW:TOR, I'm remaking Keith, Raizel, and Kit (Crystal Avenger) in it - assuming I can make a not physically intimidating inventor, a demon-looking girl* with fire powers, and a teenager with dark-looking powers. None of those seem particularly far fetched (see also the fact that I've made them in two superhero MMOs so far with no difficulty at all). So, MMO makers out there, I can haz, plz?

Speaking of things I'd like to haz, the measure of a mook problem irks me slightly when there's an actual story. I know it's, sadly, in genre for my agent to blast his way in to the villain's lair and then try to get the villain to surrender or give up villainy.   Actually, I take it back, the latter part isn't in genre at all, whether we're talking James Bond movies or Star Wars. It is something I like about the game, even if the bad guys keep answering attempted diplomacy with blaster fire. I'd like it even better if, once in a while, the bad guy actually came quietly or gave Kyrian a good reason to let zir go.** I'd also really like it if Kyrian could break into enemy strongholds in some way more subtle than blasting his way in. I know one version of the agent class has stealth, but the game - like City of Heroes - isn't really designed for people to skip most of the fighting. So even if the stealth were as good as in CoH, it wouldn't really be a good solution.

I wonder if one could design an MMO (or other game) that wasn't quite so centered around blasting everything. I'd love to run around sneaking into places, using disguises and breaking and entering and secret passages and whatnot, getting the villain alone in zir study... and proposing that zie give up villainy. Even if 75% of the time zir response was to shoot at me. I think there actually are single player games like that, but single player games don't let you create your own character, generally.

Part of the mook problem for superhero games, at least,  could be solved just by making a Bioware one. You just have options after fighting into the supervillain lair to, depending on the kind of hero you are, call the police and medics in, make an anonymous tip to 911 (effectively the same, but for unauthorized superheroes), or just walk out because you're the Punisher type and don't care about that stuff. Or something along those lines, anyway. (The fact that people can somehow have non-fatal battles while throwing fire and lightning and such like around is a staple of comic books, so I'm not going to worry about exactly how it is that Raizel isn't incinerating her foes. Because comic books, that's why.)

And, of course, if one tied leveling up to something besides defeating enemies, like, perhaps getting all one's points from quests, you could give people options of sneaking into places vs. walking in the front door without penalizing one of the choices. Hell, I wouldn't mind a game that let one get into places like Tom Baker's Doctor Who generally did. The high point of which was when he (I'm pretty sure it was him and not Peter Davison's doctor) walked up to the front door of some place and said: "Hello, I'm an enemy spy. :) "

Yes, I realize that solely quest based leveling isn't fair to people who don't like doing quests, but what the heck are they doing playing a story-centered game? That's like signing up to play tennis, but not wanting to hit a ball back and forth with a racket. Really, people.

I wonder what would happen if a game made *talk your way in*, *sneak your way in*, *get yourself captured and free yourself*, and *fight your way in* all equally valid and entertaining options.  I have this suspicion that *fight your way in* would rapidly become the least used option, simply because the others would be new and different.  And there may be other people like me who've been longing for options.

* Just realized both of my female superheroes are teens, while my male superhero (who isn't super) is an adult. *frowny face* I don't know whether to be concerned about that or not. Keith isn't exactly old and wise - he's small and thin and doesn't really know how to fight and he runs around fighting supervillains because he can, thanks to his inventions. He may be an adult simply because my mind said he needed more time to get good at inventing, while Raizel has natural powers she's spent her whole life using and Kit just had to get used to weird meteorite power (she's still working on the costume design part). But I digress.

** Holy Spoilers Batman!
In the first Imperial flashpoint, I actually wanted an option to let the guy we were supposed to capture go and fake his death or something. He made some very good arguments regarding what he was doing. Of course, that would require the whole group to conspire to commit treason, which would take some brave and reckless Imperials indeed. Would still be an awesome addition to the options. *Take Him Prisoner* *Fake His Death And Let Him Go* *Kill Him*


virtualvoyages: an old worn book on a black back ground, a glow at one corner of the book (Default)

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