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Some thoughts on good and evil
None - posted by Vault Dweller on Sun 28 November 2004, 00:37:28Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age: Origins
Slow day, huh? I was browsing through the Dragon Age forum highlights at NWN Vault, and noticed Stan Woo, Bioware QA ninja (hope he stays there), talking about things like good and evil in games. So, I figured I can twist his words out of context, and we can have a nice discussion and/or a flame war:
...without defined "good" and "evil," the casual gamer is lost in a sea of ambiguity. In epic storytelling, which in my opinion is something BioWare does rather well, there is no sorta-good or kinda-evil. Good is usually "the epitome of good" and evil is "the archetypal evil," since epic tales revolve around archetypal characters and themes. It's to give the player something familiar to react to.
It's the same reason why sitcom characters tend to overreact to situations--to garner the desired reaction. The avatars that players choose to adventure with are usually idealized versions of themselves, with all of their desired strengths and none of their perceived weaknesses.
Having a subtle or un-obvious "good" or "evil" does not necessarily make a good game, since the percentage of gamers willing to "think" or consider philosophy or metaphysics in-game is quite small. It's one of the reasons that Planescape: Torment, despite its gripping story and wonderfully flawed characters and unusual setting, wasn't a commercial success. By all accounts, most hardcore gamers loved it and to this day tout it as an example of great storytelling and great gaming. The vast majority of gamers, however, will be drawn to games with far less complexity to their stories, such as Diablo and Halo, and both of those had a definite "good" and "evil."
I, like many posters in this thread, am a hardcore gamer who has been playing role-playing games since before they were 2D and grid-based. I've played games where one needed to take copious notes and hand-draw their own maps. On the other hand, I've also played games where the player was led by the nose and everything was automated. While I know which kind of game and gameplay I'd prefer, I can't say that one kind is inherently or objectively "better" than any other.
KotOR had a great mix of epic storytelling, adventure, difficult decisions, plot twists and plain ol' hack-and-slash. Neverwinter had a much grander scope, maybe not in terms of story but in the size of the world. Good was gooder, evil was eviler, hack-and-slash was hack-and-slasher and epic storytelling was far more highly epicker. Jade Empire promises to have many of those elements as well, but more actioner and Empirer.
In terms of epic storytelling, there has to be a recognizable good vs. evil, otherwise we get ambiguous characters and spend more time on neutrality than good old-fashioned Black Bart versus the sheriff.
Personally, I enjoy having recognizable good vs. evil. Anything less and players will rely on their own definitions, and developers will never be able to satisfy everyone's idea of sorta-good or maybe-evil (as we have seen elsewhere in this and the previous thread).
Yeah, God forbid players would have to rely on their own definitions or interpret events. They must be told and explained beyond the reasonable doubts who's good and who's bad. I guess we'd see more of lines like: "Arrghh! I'm very, very evil! I must destroy everything! Mwahahaha! Are you bad enough dude (but in a very good way) to stop me?!"