Foobario made some comments on my last post regarding Grand Theft Auto. You should really read the original post and comment, but for the impatient here is the short version:
Think â€˜Vegas' back in the days of organized crime (err… back in the days of the *old fashioned* organized crime, the kind that created the city). It had clean streets and little â€˜crime', since there were acceptable outlets for most of the impulses that lead to crime in a â€˜good' city. The mob realized that a smart parasite doesn't kill the host, and it kept everything running smoothly, because it made good business sense.
It seems to me that the point of view that â€˜bad guys' inevitably self-implode doesn't make for a more open-ended game, it just makes for a morality tale. Your â€˜better idea' sounds, to me, like a world of surfaces where you *can* judge a book by its cover, and in such a world what incentive would there be to delve deeper? What would motivate a player to forge their own path, if the system was set up to only reward those who chose a specific path?
I can see what he’s saying here. Evil isn’t always self-destructive. It was said of Benito Mussolini’s rule that, “At least the trains ran on time”. Within the Fascist Axis countries of WW II, things were neat, orderly, and opressive. At least until the good guys came along and destroyed everything. The Galactic Empire of Star Wars seemed to run fairly smooth until those idealistic rebels showed up and started trying to tear down the empire. Orderly bad guys. Good guys causing destruction. Looks like we’re missing something.
So let’s assume we’re mixing a Will Wright style open-ended game with the Grand Theft Auto gameplay mechanics. I think that to solve the problem Foobario describes we need at least a two-dimensional system, similar to the D&D alignment system. One axis is the line between Good and Evil and the other is the line between Law and Chaos. The first axis is controlled by which forces you align with, and the second is a measure of how you pursue your goals within the game.
A Lawful Good character is going to work to expose corruption via the press and have the bad guys put in jail.
A Chaotic Good character is going to take the faster and more direct approach of simply killing the bad guys and destroying their stuff.
A Lawful Evil character would work to support (say) the Mob. They would follow the rules of the Mob, killing snitches and carefully punishing people who don’t pay up in a timely manner, but being careful not to cause too much destruction. As Foobario said, “a smart parasite doesn't kill the host”.
A Chaotic Evil character is just going to kill and destroy for their own entertainment. Sort of like “rampages” in GTA, where you cause as much damage as you can and then flee to escape the wrath of law enforcement.
My suggestion for turning this into gameplay mechanics:
There would be two major powers in the game: The Mob and the Government. They two fight for control of the city. On one side, the Mob has many government officials paid off. On the other, the city has many undercover cops that have infiltrated the Mob. There is a power stuggle within the Mob which is making waves and causing violence. The player may choose either side, but they may also choose HOW to serve their chosen side. They may also choose NO side. (The only limitation here is that you can’t serve BOTH, since that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.)
Lawful Good: Weed out corruption and guys on the take. Gather evidence, expose it to the media, and have the bad guys arrested.
Lawful Evil: Bring order to the Mob by ending the power struggle. Eliminate the undercover cops. The killing must be focused and neat. You just kill the target, and minimize damage to the city. Usually this might mean taking our your foes according to some rules, hitman-style.
Chaotic Good: Refuse to align yourself with either the Government or the Mob. Instead you kill the bad guys on both sides. You’ll be killing currupt officials as well as burning down drug factories and destroying other Mob-owned “businesses”.
Chaotic Evil: Unfocused destruction. Don’t align yourself with either side, just rampage through the city causing as much damage as you can. This isn’t so much a “game” or a set of missions. It’s just the player goofing off in freeform mode instead of playing the game.
In my original post I described how the city and its inhabitants would be affected by player actions. I’m having trouble mapping that to this two-dimensional system. The best that I can come up with is that the physical city itself will change according to your Law / Chaos approach. If you spend a lot of time slaughtering people and blowing stuff up (for either good or evil), then property values will drop and the city will look more ghetto. If you support law (either side) then the city will be more neat and clean. At the same time, the people themselves will change according to your Good / Evil choices. People living in a good city will tend to be more kind and upbeat, even if they are poor. People living in a bad city will be hard and mean. They will have a “New York” attitude. They will walk with their heads down and dress in drab colors.
I’m not entirely happy with this. It’s hard to imagine a city with widespread unemployment and poverty (because you destroyed so much of the city that businesses have fled) where the people are still upbeat and happy.
I think we’re pretty far from the GTA template at this point, and we’re into a more open-ended Sim Hero/Villian type game. But I doubt the average sim player has a taste for gunplay, and I think the game might be a bit cerebral for the average GTA player. Perhaps not.
Still, I love to come up with gameplay mechanics like this. It’s fun to try and devise a system that makes sense, is intuitive, and still offers engaging gameplay. I’m not sure I pulled it off here, but it’s always fun to try.
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