Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Other MMO Ideas: Morality System, Part 2

As was stated in part 1, the problem that I've had with morality systems in games is that it always feels liek the game rewards you the most for choosing to go all "bad" or all "good" with the middle ground suffering from a heavy hybrid tax, meaning that you never are "good" or "bad" enough to unlock the best abilities available to each option. This really hampers me when I play these games because, sometimes (though I am usually compelled to choose the "good option") I won't make an obviously villanous choice simply because it will make my character weaker, not because I think the heroic way is more fun/interesting. Some games, such as Mass Effect, remove the morality from abilities and leave it to the story and dialogue choices (i.e. the more evil you are, the more likely a super evil option will pop up when talking to NPC's) and this can, of course effect the environment and the game world, which is great. However, when trying to adapt this concept to the World of MMO's, each player making decisions that change the world is not really a feasable option.

What I'd propose is a sliding scale. I like the idea of a virtuous warrior using higher minded abilities and a corrupted champion using dark abilities, and, since character development is the most important part of an MMO (it being the only real thing you can usually influence in the game), the more your choices affect your toon, the better. Since most of you reading this are familiar with the Star Wars universe and I can probably assume that a great many of you have played Knights of the Old Republic, I will use their system as a basis for what I propose.

You can see a bar with "Light" at the top and "Dark" at the bottom. Your character's current place on the bar is indicated with an arrow. I would modify this to also include paratheses around the arrow that, as the character levels up, the paratheses spread out to encompass more of the bar. Up and down the bar are all the abilities that it is possible to use. In the middle is "Force Push", on the light end, "Force Shield" and on the dark end is "Force Lightning" with all the other abilities spread out on the spectrum in between. As you make light or dark choices in the game, your arrow moves one way or the other up or down the bar. Wherever the arrow is pointing is what your strongest ability is. For instance, if you managed to stay dead center, your strongest ability would be "Force Push" but as you leveled up, you would be able to use more and more abilities until the parentheses took up most of the bar. In this case, " Force Push" wouldn't be weaker than "Force Lightning" per se, just a different game style. In fact, in this way of playing, a more balanced character could be an advantage, seeing as you would have more abilities to choose from. Your aligment would just determine which was the most powerful at any given moment. This would take a bit of balancing, but if there were, say, 5 main abilities (lightning, choke, push, heal and shield, for instance), whichever the arrow was closer to would be the one that was the most powerful and all the other abilities that were near it would be 2nd mst powerful and so on out to the edges of the parentheses.

Using a system like this, players could choose to focus on what choices they would make or really, however they wanted to play the game. Woudl they choose to be a clear hero, like Luke was? A clear villain like the Emperor? Or maybe they would be somewhere in the middle like the morally ambiguous Jedi of the prequels who were too concerned with their own interests to really be guardians of the galaxy. Naturally, this kind of a system can be used for any set of abilities for any class. There will always be a good and a bad version of any kind of job (evil monk anyone?)

In part 3, I'll wrap this all up and show how I think this would all work in an MMO setting.

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