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Reader Comments (21)

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 10:19AM Anatidae said

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What is often lacking in MMOs is a consequence to your morality. Some single player RPs really make you feel part of the world by the way your choices change, at the very least, the way NPCs interact with you. But a good RP changes the story.

MMOs started off offering sandbox worlds where you could be immoral. Early MUDs and MUSHes would allow PvP - but there was some harsh penalties for murders. You could, in fact, be perma-killed in game.

I guarantee you that games like Darkfall, where almost everyone acts without morals, would be very different if your character could be permanently killed because you are a murderer. Even known it is really just a loss of time, people would think twice about random ganking.

I'd like to see MMOs develop more tools and in-game reactions to immoral behavior and then at the same time allow for the occasional immoral action to take place and even allow for the person who wants to try and be very villianous (with the risks that it entails).

For instance, maybe there could be a difference between "killing" a player and disabling them. When some jerk comes and kill steals from me or something like that in an MMO, I can try and knock the guy out in a fight. Once down, I can choose to murder and loot (and get the penalties) or I can just let him be where he will either just return to his spawn point or recover after a while. I love that feeling of having the option to do something in-game with there are jerks. Or even protect the weak.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 12:24PM Ivasen said

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I don't know why but I really wasn't expecting you to say anything good Brian. (I'm sorry I judged you)

But I have to say; that was a very good idea because at the end of the day - what makes the MMO fun is that you feel you can do whatever you want to do instead of being on rails the whole time, it's about having choices.

WoW even use to have a Dishonorable kill system, during Beta you would even be shown on the map to everyone if you were just going around raping and pillaging everything in sight.
But in the end it was exchanged for a world where no one really cared what you did or who you were, where as before if you were to do that - people would shout the zone claiming "Bunnykillerone" is in the zone! and everyone would know who that guy was.

Choice matters a lot because it can change just from that particular day you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and you feel like exacting revenge on that guy that never shuts up in a world chat channel.
You might love summer and get an outside job, but you would hate to work that job in the winter.

Oh well, someone needs to steer this genre the right direction again, because like this country, our former leader abused us.
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Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 10:22AM Snowleopard233 said

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I think WoW’s wrath of the lich king expansion has taken several steps in the right direction as far as exploring morality goes. Granted, you’re not asked to shoot up an airport, but many of the quests you are given require you to take actions that are purposely unsavory. The Death Knight starting zone, where you kill and torture villagers fleeing from the scourge, is the most prominent example of this, but there are others that really stood out to me. I remember one quest where I found out that a supposedly evil mage I had gladly killed was actually the youngest daughter of one of the archmages in the kirin tor and that she was being forced to fight against her will. In another quest, I killed a bull sea lion for some pirates, only to realize later that my actions had seriously upset the local ecosystem. Granted, these quests don’t deliver a lot of “choice” in morality, but they do illustrate that taking a life does have repercussions and is in many cases, just downright senseless.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 10:24AM (Unverified) said

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I think they shy away from it because it is hard to program and account for subtleties and game design gets muddied into real life issues and moralities. Best to just play it safe and let folks play Whack a mole for valuable prizes.

I remember Asherons Call had an interesting moral dilemma, made for some good roleplaying. One of the mages responsible for a major catastrophe was being imprisoned in a dungeon and you had to fight to the bottom of said dungeon and were presented with two levers. One to condemn the mage for their actions and one to reprieve her due to extenuating circumstances. I believe the level pulls were tallied to determine whether the mage lived or died.

I think WOW has the mission in Wrath of the Lich King as to whether to use torture on a prisoner or not. Unfortunately, the decision is only really a personal one, there is not an option for your character to do something else except drop the quests and any subsequent followup quests.

DDO lets your paladin go steal stuff from thieves for other thieves. No problem.

City of Heroes' Mission Architect lets people make their own missions and even 'Choose your own path' as missions can tell players to play Mission X if they Free the Evil Zord or play Mission Y of they chose to Slay the Evil Zord.

It's definately an area I'd like to see grow as it makes for a richer more immersive game but some folks though just want whack a mole so I think there is room for both.

Posted: Dec 4th 2009 2:16PM Berzerk said

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The problem comes with the logic behind it. Combat is very easy to design. A hits B and B hits A until A or B fall over. Negotiation is nearly impossible to program with current tech. (I can't even begin to thing of an A and B model for negotiating...)

In games like Civ and Sins, there is negotiation but it's essentially the same as combat, except no guns are fired. Where you attack with the negotiating unit until you conquer them with your superior negotiating skill.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 10:38AM (Unverified) said

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I believe that is the direction that Star Wars the Old Republic is heading towards... Hope so!

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 11:04AM Serious Table said

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I agree with Darquegryn there; if anyone can do it, it's probably BioWare.

Now, EVE Online has a system somewhat akin to this. They give you your Sandbox, and they let you choose what it is you want to do. And penalties are put into place if you are a thief, if you gank someone, etc in systems inhabited by NPCs. In LowSec, I think, they grant the player permission to shoot you on sight without penalty. In HighSec, you'll get the police after you, and they DON'T miss. I think you can even get someone's entire Corporation after you. Of course, if you're in NullSec space, the only penalty you have is enraging the player, lowering your standing with them, and possibly becoming hunted by a very big and very angry Corporation that will pod you (which leads to standing loss for them, as well).

And again with the death thing, EVE does that pretty well in my eyes. You can lose your ship, which leads to a great loss in money and time because of the investment, but you can also lose your Pod, which kills you and you lose very expensive implants you had on your person. You're resurrected, of course, back at a station, but you're pretty much left with nothing but your cash and your skills. It makes combat SCARY and INTENSE and MEAN SOMETHING because you can really lose something for it.

I'd like to see something like this more wide-spread. But how do you go about doing this? How do you effectively put penalties or consequences to a player's actions in a very large world where thousands of players are playing it? How do you create a death penalty that makes the players want to make sure they don't die, but isn't so unforgiving that they die and then just stop playing the game?

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 1:45PM Gaugamela said

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This is an issue with most games and MMOs. It's a natural thing since some people don't want to care with the consequences that their actions in a virtual environment will have on said ennvironment, which is comprehensible since everywhere in the real world there's someone pushing the notions into us that every thing we do has a consequence to the environment, or to another person, or to other nation, or to other organization, etc, etc.

However, you have som truly amazing games that depict quite accurately the consequences of your actions and games like the Bioware ones that allow you to take some moral choices. So in that aspect KOTOR will probably be the first MMO where morality will be one of the main mechanics of the game. It will bring a new dimension to MMOs and i just hope that that game also brings an in-depth crafting system and some leisure activities to do besides killing each other.

I think the deeper issue is that most of the most successfull games always involve as the main objective to kill, conquer, or phisycally abuse your opponent (excluding sports simulations). I would like to see an MMO that offered besides the common option of killing mobs or other players introduced different activities like some kind of sport activity in it.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 11:24AM Thac0 said

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Haven't you ever read Enders Game? They are just training us to do as we are told and kill and not think about it. Think about it.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 12:05PM Aganazer said

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But wait, I'm not supposed to think about killing. Then you tell me to think about it!

Aaaarrrrgggghhhh /head explodes
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Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 12:36PM redavni said

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The 1980's called and wanted to let you know about the alignment attribute that has been used in RPG's pretty much since their inception. Plenty of MUD's use it today in a wide variety of ways.

Jennings correctly points out that examining morality depends on immersion. Something which casual players don't seem to want. So, no...we wont have morality examined to any real depth in mass-market MMO's. Those days are long gone.

Also, anyone who thinks Eve doesn't present morality issues hasn't played the game, or doesn't understand what morality is.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 1:55PM Thac0 said

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I agree and disagree. Yes we need alignment systems and no i am fairly casual but i crave immersion more than anything; thats half the reason I'm not hardcore I'm not immersed enough to care to invest myself.

Also yes EvE has lots of Morality as a former Amarr RP guy i can attest to this first hand.
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Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 3:19PM Kalex716 said

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I was trying to think how to illustrate your exact points. I agree with you 100%.

I wish a game would break that 4th wall, and figure out a way to call me out as a loot-whore in some grandiose dramatical in game manner but I know, most people, would HATE it for the same reason i might love it.

How do you mold real player actions and interactions into supported game play features? because even the bioware "A = good guy response, B = neutral guy response and C = bad guy response" is flawed.
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Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 4:37PM Bezza said

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I feel it is important to remember that the ethics and morals of any MMO should reflect the game world and the morals that are part of that world system. There is absolutely no place for politically correct ethics in an MMO that is not based on our world.

The whole point of many MMO worlds is that they are not the real world and accordingly real world standards don’t apply. We should not be attempting to push the morals and ethics of current day real world life onto a fictional world. If I want to play say for arguments sake, Age of Conan and as far as the game allows me, hack out a kingdom for my self by my strength of arms then so be it. A major appeal of any fictional game is that you can be someone else and exist in a world other than the real one. If the elves of Mirkwood say that orcs are evil and deserve to die then so be it. That is part of the lore of middle earth, orcs are bad. It’s okay to kill orcs.

On the other hand, all MMO’s come with an inbuilt morality. (Often tied in with alignment.) Take Vanguard for example, certain races could not show their faces to each other without accumulating sufficient alignment points. If you did they just mobbed you on sight. Certain actions earned you alignment points which could effect your character negatively.

I do agree that it would be really good to play a MMO that had a system of morality and ethics that –based solely on the game worlds lore- awarded and punished behaviours that were contrary to the ethics of that game world and its lore. For example in the upcoming Star trek Online there is much scope for ethics in what is supposed to be a peace loving highly moralistic world. But I would not expect the same morals to apply in a low-fantasy game such as AoC.

I recently started playing Aion and noticed that some of the starting quests involve looting and killing of lesser races who don’t appear to be actually doing any harm to anyone. The character dialogue to it’s credit raises the issue of these creatures starving if I loot there hard earned grain or fruit, but this is quickly glossed over as a matter of survival of the fittest in a hard and unforgiving world. Clearly there is some scope for change, a character who is supposed to eventually evolve into a guardian of their world probably should not start off as a murdering looting raider.

I am all for morals ethics and consequences to actions within MMO’s as long as those morals and ethics remain true to the lore of that game world.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 5:09PM (Unverified) said

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Frankly i think the problem is that MMO designers are trying to enforce morality in their games. As in, they're trying to put in place consequences for negative behavior, and bonuses for positive behavior. This is detrimental to their goal. People will naturally HAVE their own set of morals, and if you want a game to be realistic and immersive ALL you need to do is give the player the option of expressing their morality. THAT is something that games forget. For example, EVE online 'has' morality, sure. But the problem is that it's all enforced externally to the community. I, for one, though I don't know much about EVE, were I to play EVE, would find it immensely enjoyable to be a 'police' character, and defend those who would be attacked by pirates. But of course, the police are NPC's. That makes the restriction more like an invisible wall than an organic effect. They simply can't go into highsec space, or they will be killed by security. That's NOTHING like the real world. In the real world, the police force has to be active and intelligent in pursing the criminals. Policemen die - real people - and criminals get away with crimes. Different police forces are different depending on the city, but they are not automatons.

The problem is a result of the restrictions on morality, rather than a lack of options. That is to say, there is a big difference between ALLOWING choices, and having no restrictions on choice beyond the game physics. You can allow all the choices you want, but you're still only allowing THOSE choices.

And TOR, as a single player game (zing) would have an easier time allowing more choices, but that's not morality. Morality is subtle. Morality can't be accomplished or defined by NPC's. (at least until artificial intelligence gets out of hand).

Morality is what happens between the players in a game. The only way to allow for natural morality, is to have an open world where roles like police/security are a viable way to accomplish goals in the game world. Where criminal activity is equally viable, though you have to fight the police - real players not NPCs - at every turn. Keeping the peace according to what the community desires. Corruption would have to exist, in the police. Undercover operations would have to be possible. Other players would have to be able to submit reports, and the police would have to be able to use metagame and ingame information to solve and assault the criminals.

This is just the cops vs. robbers aspect. But in general, the point I am trying to make is that there needs to be allowances for the PLAYERS to make their OWN morality within the game world. Artificially controlling it, with our current level of technology, is impossible. People have to fuel it. People have to make the morality.

This game also can't be like Wow. In a game like Wow, you're pretty much just along for the ride. There are no choices to be made. The player is mostly an observer.

the other issue is that if you were to create a game like this, Chaos would be rampant for a long period of time. People wouldn't understand. They'd stumble around. Get robbed, and take revenge. Kill eachother. Waste resources. Etc. But that's just like our own history. That's what we did before we got organized. After a while people would figure out that they NEED to fullfill roles, and work together for good or ill (and both will be possible). So without question it would be a rough start, which is why it's also risky. Who wants to jump into a world where they have to be careful? Who would want to WORK to create peace? Who wants to fight? A game like this would have to deal, somehow, with the mental lethargy of the average player.

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 5:50PM (Unverified) said

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Well today's MMOs don't touch morality because of the target audience they are aimed at. You wouldn't expect your afternoon-sitcom to touch morality so why would you expect WoW or the like to do so?

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 6:54PM Graill440 said

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First, an MMO will be the moral and ethical child of the person that creates it, develops it. If the person making the MMO has some deep seeded problems we will see what we have currently in todays MMO market, those devs thinking "this is fine" or "this evokes emotion" maybe because in the devs mind it does, after all, we are playing their dream till we see it is shit and move on.

To discuss morals or ethics you first have to have them. So many of the reports or studies i have read through are created by people that cannot support their own moral or ethical stance.

To throw out a study or research paper on the subject and expect people to take you at your word because "you" say it is so or "you" did all this research and book reading gives nothing to credibility.

People, when pushed together in a venue where consequence is non existant will act in the basest ways should come as no suprise, there is no shortage of MMO's proving this on a daily basis, devs joke about this, or have none of you seen the conventions?

Those of us that want something different refuse to pander to the current set of dev digested, shove this down your face and like it thinking simply do not play these ignorant MMO's currently on the market.

Twisted morals and fekked up ethics in a devs mind are what create many of the MMO's currently out today. Until we get devs that actually have morals and ethics, and actually understand what those words mean we will continue to get the crap we have released today and in the future. If the devs actually understood those words we wouldnt have the crap we have today, and we could still have some great MMO's.

Imagine MMO's where upon mouseover you can see the home address of your antagonist and vice versa, imagine no dev corruption and no player corruption in games, imagine consequence when an act of immorality or poor ethics is made. Imagine devs making moral and ethical choices based on their own lives.......... of course with the MMO examples today most of those lives are ate the hell up.

You can have your cake and eat it too, you can have those good verse evil blood fests, but they need consequence, and no MMO out today has any type of consequence tempering the lack of morals and ethics in todays MMO's.

On a side note, a game might not have any morals or ethics and many players magnify this problem. Until the players hiding behind the monitors understand what morals and ethics are, or have their addresses displayed on mouseover, you will have popular examples like EVE and WOW, showing us all how not to act, and what not to play.

MW2 had a section where civies were killed by terrorists, lots of choices here, the developers of the game were idiots in my opinion on how they did this but i digress. My solution to the ethical choice in that scenario? To simply let the terrorists move up a ways, then fire off target and back onto the terrorists killing them, only makarov couldnt be killed but i had a blast killing the terrorists over and over, my choice until i bypassed the scenrio. I saw pages of folks doing the opposite, thinking it was fine, and the justification? Its only a game.

You folks that think that way, one day you will find the choices you make in real life isnt a game.

>Grin

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 10:21PM GaaaaaH said

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Is it REALLY so wrong to break into someones house, kill them and ransack the place then take all their things for fun and profit?

Posted: Dec 2nd 2009 11:26PM cray said

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I believe the biggest reason for the absence of morality in MMOs is the complexity of programming involved compared to the cost of making the game. It's simply too costly to implement a wide range of options and consequences for all the variables.

However I do feel it can be done. It's just a matter identifying the right consequences for the player's actions or lack thereof. As many have stated it, there needs to be harsher penalties for those who beyond reproach in their villainy. Such consequenses as perma-death, or loss of physical/magical attributes to your avatar, which in turn would make it harder to continue with villainous ways.

I'm not totally against gamers playing with questionable morals, as I think there should also be consequences for those who are lawfully overzealous. A morally upstanding avatar shouldn't be excused for playing judge, jury and executioner. If a mission is said to retrieve a villain and player decides to kill him, then there needs to be consequences. Such as stripping the avatar of his reputation, imprision the avatar and forcing the player to prove that he/she has regretted such action and has rehabilitated.

These ideas are all complex programing, but I do think they can be implemented.

Posted: Dec 3rd 2009 1:06AM Heraclea said

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In City of Heroes, there's a mission whose object is to liberate a number of ghosts that are being held prisoner in a warehouse by witches. I've always wondered how you'd fill out the police report on that one. Is this a subject that the lawbooks in Paragon City cover?
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