The mistake most multiple-choice RPGs have.

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Banestalker, Dec 7, 2015.

  1. Banestalker

    Banestalker Wanamingo Breeder

    93
    Jun 5, 2014
    I just finished DA:I for a second time , though it is probably the last time for me i guess. There's just not much replayability in Dragon Age Inquisition. Even though i haave finished games like Dragon Age Origins for like 5 times i still cant bring myself to finish other RPGs a second time.

    Why is that? I believe the answer is that the devs themselves hurt the replayability of their products by throwing our characters into the "good side".

    Alot of game developers seem to think that just because the protagonist is going to beat a big baddie, then they're automatically doing a good deed and hence are naturally put onto the good team.

    Take these two games made by the same company :

    Dragon Age : Origins

    Dragon Age : Inquisition


    Now, lets take a look at what happens inside these games.

    Inside the first game we see our protagonist rising too become a Grey Warden and gain new allies to fight the blight. The protagonist is not fighting the blight because he is good and the blight is evil, but rather he is fighting it because the blight's ultimate goal is to wipe out the other sentient beings, including the protagonist. Now the protagonist can be a classic goody two shoes character or a very cruel sadistic man, or a greedy fellow who may even sell his own kin, but in the end they defeat the blight because it poses an existential threat to them.

    The third game is different because it automatically throws you into the good camp. Because you're fighting Corypheus, and are dubbed the leader of the inquisition.
    The option of doing stuff the evil way is gone and instead you have the choice of being a strict good guy who punishes people accordingly and harshly or a kind caring figure who shows mercy to guilty folks. As if there cant be an overzealous , cruel and strict organization which despite all its harshness is capable og dealing with a great threat with an iron first.

    Im not sure why the devs do this, is it on purpose? why do they automatically assume that in order to beat a malificent evil being one has to be on the side of greater good? We only have to have conflicting goals and ideas that are against eachother's interests.

    Take fallout for example.

    In 1 and 2 we were facing enemies with strict racist views, they viewed all the other races (us included) as inferior and we had no other choice but to kill them lest they would've killed us and our kin. That didnt mean we were a good guy, heck we could've done fallout 2 while having several towns sacked and left alot of dead corpses scattered throughout the wasteland. We were by no means a good or white character just because we killed the master or the enclave.

    Lets go back to a classic : planescape. Planescape is a prime example of why beating a big baddie doesn't neccesarily mean we are a good character. We could've been an absolute terrible person, the antagonist didn't oppose us because of our personality but simply because of what we were. And a final confrontation was inevitable no matter what our personality was.

    So my question is why alot of developers try to avoid giving players the option of being evil? Because most of the time in RPGs the enemies tend to have goals which we view as malicious because they oppose a fundamental charactristic of our character. A racist person is still going to hate an african american no matter what personality he has.
     
  2. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    889
    Jul 2, 2015
    I don't know if DA:I is really a good example here. Since I mean "we were facing enemies ... [for which] we had no other choice but to kill them lest they would've killed us" also describes your relationship to Corypheus, since he needs the glowing magical thing on your hand and the only way to get it is to kill you because magic works the way the writers need it to work. They could have included a "okay, I agree to let you kill me" roll credits for the bad ending, but I don't know if that's the sort of thing that's really worth spending money to develop.

    I personally don't think "you have the choice of being an asshole" is a contributing factor in replayability for me, since I don't think RPing "evil" characters is interesting most of the time. What makes particularly roleplaying games interesting and replayable is that they pose dilemmas that do not have easy or simple answers, and a large part of how you come down on is simply due to where you're standing when you look at it.

    Bioware actually manages to pull this off from time to time. See for example Legion's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, or Iron Bull's questline in DA:I.
     
  3. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Half-way Through My Half-life

    Nov 26, 2007
    Judging by what I've seen, that is not always the case, and is rarely the case when the racist is African American themselves.

    **About the games [in general]: I think the bigger problem is the developer phobia that the player won't see location X, or cutscene Y, and be less impressed with the game... and as result of this, we get an implausible narrative story arc that reads like 5th grade creative writing class; by shoehorning it all into one character's extended misadventures.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
  4. Banestalker

    Banestalker Wanamingo Breeder

    93
    Jun 5, 2014
    Well let's take a closer look at Origins. The Frostback mountain chapter, and at the end where you know how the Golems are created. and in the end you have the option of either aiding Branka in saving the anvil and thus bringing more Golems into the world OR kill her and destroy the Anvil, guaranteeing that no other soul will be enslaved to the fate of becoming a Golem. there are also other options, like changing Branka's mind after the fight so she ends up making a crown and then killing herself by jumping down.

    it kinda affects the game too, NPCs react differently based on the choices you made. and it really gave you the feeling that you're playing a different character. in the end we receive different reinforcements, Golems, Werewolves, Legion of the Dead, we could bring alot of allies into the fight.

    BTW speaking of endings : I think Mass Effect 2 improved upon this idea of ending by adding the risk of losing your companions in the last battle. notice that in both Dragon Age : Origins and Mass Effect 2 we had a battle in the end in which our companions held a line while we charged ahead to fight the big baddie. While in DA:O Companions wouldn't die at the ending battle (except for the very ending, where your companion charged into the arch demon and killed it) Mass Effect 2 added a system that would kill companions based on your decisions.

    back to topic : While my main companions were usually Leliana, Alistair and Wynne but I even had playthroughs where I had Morrigan, Sten and Zevran as companions and played as a very cynical immoral character, I ended up having Allistair executed and then sent Loghain to his death to save my own ass. the combination of these choices and the effects they have on the game setting really increase a game's longevity. I expected Bioware to improve upon this formula but sadly the chose to sacrifice true multiple-choice RPG in order to please everyone and increase their sales instead of making something memorable and of high value.

    that, and nude mods. gotta have nude mods.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
  5. Banestalker

    Banestalker Wanamingo Breeder

    93
    Jun 5, 2014
    exactly what I hate about these sort of companies, they try to streamline their games so much that they start to forget about RPG players and dumb down their game so that even a COD player can enjoy it all the while the game is officially labelled as an RPG. and in the end the product is something so forgetable that neither RPG players nor shooter/action players can relate to, because w/e it does a true RPG/Action/FPS game does much better.

    people should not act stupid or impatient, at least not if they're playing an RPG. if someone is playing an RPG and they don't want to be arsed with dialogue options or bother exploring maps extensively or bother with choosing different dialogues (roleplaying a different character) for different results then they're playing the wrong genre.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
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  6. khain

    khain [X] Sarcastic

    145
    Dec 3, 2015
    Indeed.

    I always feel it's unfair to compare the moral dimension of any RPGs to Planescape. I played it a lot, but mainly it was my main roleplaying setting for years, and it does an incredible job at having nuances of grey. Characters such as the Lady of Pain, Rowan Darkwood or A'kin are complex ones with sophisticated agendas, and the entire multiverse has got that feeling where you never can really anticipate whether you're doing the 'right' thing. Manipulative factions, back up plans and strategies...
     
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  7. naossano

    naossano So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Oct 19, 2006
    Being an asshole is one factor amongs many. A good RPG should manage to take several player mindset into account. The fighter, the stealth guy, the diplomat the scientist, the pacifist, the guy who slaughter everyone, the asshole, the opportunist, the reluctant, the eager to please etc... are various character/player types amongs many. A good RPG should manage to allow the situations and the games to be played with as much kind of mindsets as possible. Having some dilemmas on top of it would be awesome too. The mistake many RPG are making, which is kind of infuriating, is that they automatically assume that their playerbase have mindset X and make sure all situations are playable through mindset X and totally block the game for all the other mindset. In the end, you wonder why they still insist in calling it an RPG.
     
  8. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    Most of the time, the few games that actually DO allow you to role play or explore some evil character, it's simply not written very well. Or not well enough, at least in my experience. For good characters you usually don't have to define or explore the motivations, right? I mean he is there to stop the evil guy from doing evil things, or to revenge something evil that happend to him. Done. That's already 90% of the stuff out there - I am very vague here. But basically it all boils down to that. Often enough you have the role of the anti-hero. Like Mad Max type of characters. But they are not necessarily evil or malicient by any stretch. However, they can usually show a lot of nuances. And that's what I am missing with evil characters. Beeing evil for the sake of doing evil things, is very boring. It's kicking the dog. It is much more difficult to create an evil character with believable motivations than some good character, that maybe doesn't even need a lot of motivations. Because, it is so easy to follow. Narratively speaking. A game to really give you a chance to role play an evil character, must also give you a good and well done narrative to explore it with enough situations where you can actually express this evil attitude. Maybe playing a machiavellian power hungry character, or a manipulative deceiver who's actually getting good characters to do something against their own interest, all of that works only if the motivations make sense. And that requires very good writing. I mean it has a reason why villains are sometimes described as the weakest part in a game/movie/book. Certainly in games. Heh, some of the games that make fun of this in a very creative way are Dungeon Keeper and Overlord.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
  9. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Half-way Through My Half-life

    Nov 26, 2007
    It's them aiming for more than one target audience at a time:


    It is impossible to hit the best mark for each audience all at once; and they know it. The best anyone can do is to aim for a passable score in the hopes of being tolerable [selling] to each market. It makes sense business-wise, but it dooms one to producing mediocre crap.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
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  10. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    889
    Jul 2, 2015
    I think the problem from a roleplaying perspective is that basically nobody thinks they're actually evil, they've simply rationalized their actions (which would be perceived as evil to others) as acceptable based on some set of internal beliefs. So it's better to design "evil character" opportunities to be based on some other ideal beyond "evil for the sake of evil." The problem is though that if you're going to just consider a path for a selfish character in FUGM mode, you run into issues where simply declining to do whatever thing you're asked to do so you end up with less game, or alternatively you're giving characters incentives to be assholes which is tricky to balance around (see for example Bioshock, where you actually get more out of *not* eating the little sisters).

    It can be done, but you're better off thinking of something other than "evil" or "this character is a bad person" and more aligns of what specifically that character believes or does that makes others think they're evil or bad, while keeping in mind that you're more or less stuck with some sort of heroic narrative if you're making an AAA RPG. So "declines to participate in the plot" is right out.
     
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  11. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    Well, I think only very few people actually REALLY enjoy true role playing experiences anyway, so that doesn't come as much of a surprise for me, it is, after all a niche genre. And I do not say this to judge anyone!

    For example, I don't enjoy racing sims very much. They are just not my cup of tea. And for the same reason, some people don't enjoy role playing experiences. Though players which hate RPGs like Fallout 1 or Planescape don't want (or can't) see the difference between a game like Fallout 4 and Fallout 1. Like which view is chosen, between first person, top down and third person, the choice in narration, or why skill checks should be a part of the gameplay, or why certain actions cutt you off from a quest even.

    For example, in a setting like Fallout 1 with skills and skill checks you are supposed to guide your character trough the world with the choices you made. Be it with intelligence, diplomacy, or brute force. You are not supposed to assume that you are the character, like this character is doing evil things, because I want to do evil things in this game, but rather because I designed this character to be a power hungry and cynical machiavellian type of person. And this type of personality will always solve quests in a certain way, even if he could solve things in a different way.

    This is naturally not something that people which enjoy Fallout 4 will favour, as a game like Fallout 4 is mainly there to satisfy a power fantasy, where you're possible to play a character with the strength of Conan the Barbarian with the intellect of Steven Hawking. The game makes no distinction between the player and the player character, and his actions ultimately become an extension of the player. This is something that is typical for shooters, and one reason why I enjoy them, the power fantasy of roaming around as Gordon Freeman or Space Marine in Doom killing Demons.
     
  12. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    889
    Jul 2, 2015
    I think the point I'm trying to make is that we're better off making dilemmas between values that it's likely every character has, the game just forces you to consider which is the most important. Like in New Vegas the choice for who rules Vegas is a values clash between freedom, progress, the rule of law, and security. The choice at the end of Honest Hearts is a values clash between innocence and unspoiled nature in a world that has very little of either. The choice at the end of Legion's loyalty mission in ME2 is a clash between the value of self-determination and the sanctity of life. Et Cetera.

    Even people who aren't super into roleplaying appreciate choice better when it forces them to consider what matters most (either to them personally or their character) between two things that matter to them. Choosing between "good" and "evil" or "nice" and "asshole" aren't all that compelling.
     
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  13. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    Depends. If you give the player a frame work to play with that makes sense, from a role playing perspective. And that's something that only very few games do these days, none outside of kick starter/small projects.

    While I enjoy games like Mass Effect, I feel they are not the kind of role playing game that Fallout for example, used as blue print, and which New Vegas is trying to continue. At least with some of the skill checks. New Vegas gives you a lot of freedom, to reflect a certain personality.

    Namely, the roots of pen-and-paper games. The idea behind Gurps and so on. Have you ever played a table top/PnP game, like with a game/dungeon master, and a group? The choice you make are not just arbitrary, the quircks for your charcter, the alignment, you spend basically hours coming up with a history. All of that define your character. Even in Mass Effect, you're supposed to be Shepard, not to guide Shepard. Shepard or Gerald knows everything the player knows, and thus acts based on the players skill - for the most part.

    But in role playing a character, you really play only to the abilities of the character, his personality, what he knows - or doesn't know. A halfling thief from Calimshan who has grown up as orphan on the streets with an very opportunistic personality would certainly have a very different view about the world around him compared to a human paladin from Tethyr with a very long and noble lineage who spend most of is youth beeing taught by schoolars and aristocrats in a palace.

    And this kind of choice in character, can have far reaching consequences! Particularly if you're fighting enemies that can be defeated only with a very pecuilar tactic, like burning the heads of a Hydrah, and even if the player knows exactly what that tactic is, he can't use it in combat, if the characters he created don't know it. In other words, a skill check in knowledge for a wizard, or limnology for a bard.
     
  14. beans00

    beans00 It Wandered In From the Wastes

    163
    Nov 19, 2009
    never played the 2nd and 3rd games, thought DA:O was terrible and I've been at the point in my life where I dont have time to waste 20 hours going through a terrible game :grin:, all those bioware dating sim games are ass
     
  15. Ben Soto

    Ben Soto Professional Salt Shaker

    731
    Jul 7, 2014
    I think the big problem RPGs have is that they immediately tell you what's gonna happen if you pick option A or option B.
     
  16. Spacemunkey

    Spacemunkey Vault Senior Citizen

    Dec 4, 2015
    The Witcher does a good job of steering away from the black and white choice in a game, the "good" choice at the moment may not be good on the whole, while the "bad" choice may turn out well. Geralt is a prime example of the type of morality I strive for in any RPG; morally neutral/good in his own mind while his decisions/actions dictate how the world at large sees him. I think The Grey Warden fits this narrative very well, because to him all his actions right/wrong/indifferent are for the greater purpose, how history and the world will view him/her means very little.