Prey 2017 Part 15: Building a Better Morgan

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 21, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 118 comments

It’s been a long road, but I think we’ve finally reached the part of the game where Morgan can finally begin having agency within the story. Up until now, Morgan has simply been opening doors so she could open the next so she could reach the next door. While this was going on, she was gradually learning the story of Talos-1. She knew all of this stuff at one point, but the neuromod stripping robbed her of the knowledge and context to make sense of things. Now that she’s opened up the station and Alex has promised to stop opposing her, she’s basically all caught up on current events and is now in a position where she can start making informed decisions about things beyond her immediate survival.

Actually, not quite. There’s one last piece to the puzzle.

Your Own Worst Enemy

Look Alex, if those potato-faced goofs in the cargo bay can show up for a face-to-face conversation, then you can too.
Look Alex, if those potato-faced goofs in the cargo bay can show up for a face-to-face conversation, then you can too.

Alex invites Morgan to his office. Alex motivates her by offering his arming key. Morgan needs both arming keys – hers and Alex’s – to blow up the station. It’s very sporting of him to do this, since she had no means of obtaining it.

Morgan’s office is a spacious room with a large window overlooking the lobby. It’s impressive, but it’s basically a broom closet compared to the setup Alex has. Alex’s office is a lovely penthouse that sits high inside the domed Arboretum of Talos-1. Morgan has a nice window view of the reception area, while Alex has a friggin’ balcony that wraps all the way around this office / mansion, and which is surrounded by a vast sea of green. From up here you can see all the little people scurrying around below. Or you could, until they were all killed by the Typhon.

When Morgan arrives, she discovers that Alex is a no-show. He’s not ready to poke his head out just yet, just in case someone has some hard feelings about the whole “Death of 93% of the population of Talos-1” thing. Instead, he leaves her with another Looking Glass video. This one was recorded in the same location as the one we saw at the start of the game, where Morgan gave herself the job of blowing up the station. The difference is that Alex is present for this recording, and we’re seeing an even earlier version of Morgan.

Here Morgan demonstrates her Typhon-based superpowers by levitating the cart on the left. This scene makes it clear that Morgan bears at LEAST half the blame for what happened on the station before the Typhon broke containment.
Here Morgan demonstrates her Typhon-based superpowers by levitating the cart on the left. This scene makes it clear that Morgan bears at LEAST half the blame for what happened on the station before the Typhon broke containment.

I’ve already spoiled the Big Secret here, simply because it made the analysis easier. But this is where we learn that the story of Talos-1 isn’t a struggle between the virtuous and heroic Morgan vs. her cruel and duplicitous older brother. This is where the game makes it 100% clear – in case you missed the earlier clues – that this place was a team effort between Alex and Morgan.

(And later – if Morgan chooses to help Mikhaila Ilyushin and retrieve information about her father’s death – we can learn that not only was this place a collaboration between the Yu siblings, but that Morgan was the nastier of the two. Alex was in charge of lies and propaganda, while murder and unethical research was Morgan’s purview.)

In fact, this recording is Alex’s idea. He can see his sister is changing. Her personality is shifting. This, combined with the fact that her memory is constantly being wiped, creates a certain danger for Alex. He knows that one of these days Morgan might wake up and see him as an enemy. This recording is his way of avoiding that. If she ever turns on him, he can point her to this recording and show that she’s just as culpable as he is.

As he says when the recording ends, “All I’ve done is everything you asked.”

A More Empathetic Morgan

Yikes. I gotta say I HATE the look of hypodermic needles in this alternate timeline.
Yikes. I gotta say I HATE the look of hypodermic needles in this alternate timeline.

I’ve been glossing over it during this write-up, but you don’t have to play Morgan as the hero. You’re free to allow people to die. You can ignore Mikhaila Ilyushin’s sickness and refuse to fetch her medicine. Elsewhere you’ll encounter Dr. Dayo Igwe, trapped in a cargo container and quickly running out of air. You can help him reach safety, or you can ignore him and he’ll die in a few minutes.

Not only are you allowed to let people die through neglect, but you can take things one step further and outright murder people for giggles if that’s what you’re into. You’re free to play Morgan as a full-on psycho if you like.

But despite this freedom, I think the game designer intends – or at least expects – for you to go around acting in a more or less heroic fashion. Statistically, this is a pretty reasonable assumption. I don’t know about the Real World™, but in videogames people strongly favor taking the high road. 92% of all Mass Effect players went Paragon. While I wouldn’t take that 92% figure and attempt to smear it across all players and genres, I doubt anyone is surprised to find out that the masses choose heroic fantasy as their escapism of choice. If the Marvel movies have shown us anything, it’s that people enjoy worlds full of colorful heroes where the line between good and evil is nice and clear and the good guys always win in the end.

But a virtuous Morgan presents an interesting puzzle, thematically. We know that past-Morgan was a cold-blooded murderous jerkface. We know that her personality has drifted as a result of experimentation with technology based on the Typhon. We know the Typhon themselves are heartless and amoral.

Even before the game starts, Morgan has installed more neuromods than anyone else. And after the game starts? Hoo boy. I don’t know about your playstyle, but on my version of Talos-1, neuromod printer go BRRRRRRRRR.

So in a game where Morgan is heroic, it creates a bit of a mystery. Somehow Morgan’s repeated exposure to these uncaring aliens and their derived technology has resulted in a personality shift that turns the evil Morgan of the past into a self-sacrificing hero.

We don’t have to give the Typhon credit for making Morgan heroic, but then who does get the credit? What brought about this change? Was it the neuromods themselves? The constant memory-wipes?

Or perhaps we want to blame it on random chance? Perhaps if you were to try the same process again with a different test subject, you’d get all kinds of wacky outcomes. Heroic personality. Villainous. Sentimental. Whimsical. Eccentric. Megalomaniacal. Neurotic. Childish. Apathetic. Perhaps stripping out mods randomizes your personality a little bit,  and we were just lucky that the dice-roll nudged her towards “hero” rather than “needy self-absorbed temperamental basket case”.

Or maybe this is yet another detail that needs to be explained away by the twist ending. I notice that idea is coming up a lot, which is possibly a bad sign. I dunno. We’ll get there when we get there.

Dayo Igwe

Igwe is supposed to be standing at a table, looking down at some papers or whatever. I think Mikhaila was roaming around the room and managed to shove him away from his workstation, and now he's looking down at empty space. Like I said earlier, the NPCs in this game are pretty jank.
Igwe is supposed to be standing at a table, looking down at some papers or whatever. I think Mikhaila was roaming around the room and managed to shove him away from his workstation, and now he's looking down at empty space. Like I said earlier, the NPCs in this game are pretty jank.

Since I brought up Igwe, let’s talk about him. He provides an interesting counterpoint to Danielle Sho and ex-girlfriend Mikhaila Ilyushin.

Ms. Sho apparently hates the Yu siblings. Both of them. She’s hated them since long before the disaster, and despite the fact that she was never privy to their worst crimes.  She hates and distrusts them so much that I often wondered why she stayed on the station. Money? Her career? She didn’t want to have to find a new roleplaying group? She doesn’t seem to be aware of Morgan’s Cerberus-style research program. I get the impression that if she ever caught a whiff of a rumor regarding Morgan’s hobbies, she’d lose her shit.

For contrast, Igwe does know all about the experiments in Psychotronics. He knows about the Typhon, the “volunteers”, and Morgan’s experiments. He knows where neuromods come from. He even seems to know about what happened to Mikhaila Ilyushin’s father. And he’s fine with all of it. Even after the station falls. Dayo Igwe remains #1 Yu fanboy. He seems to regard the fate of the human test subjects with a shrug. Meh. That’s just what you gotta do. No biggie.

Both Mikhaila and Igwe find themselves in time-sensitive predicaments where they’ll die without Morgan’s help. Mikhaila will die without her medicine, and Igwe will die if you don’t dock his cargo container with the station before he runs out of air. Rather than hanging out with the other survivors in Cargo bay, these two head for Morgan’s office and hang out there until the end of the game.

If you tell Mikhaila the truth about her father, then Igwe will actually attempt to justify Morgan’s actions to her. He tries to explain that it’s okay, because Papa Ilyushin “volunteered”. He does such an amazingly bad job of it that I wouldn’t blame Mikhaila if she shot him dead on the spot. Igwe’s unnflinching support of the Yus seems almost delusional.

So Danielle Sho hates Morgan. Dayo Igwe is a huge fan. Mikhaila Ilyushin regards Morgan with affection, but will turn on you if she finds out that Morgan killed her father. That’s interesting. We’ll have more to say about these three when we get to the ending.

Coral

Here is the Typhon's original cage, which they've filled with coral. Now that they've broken containment, this stuff is all over the station.
Here is the Typhon's original cage, which they've filled with coral. Now that they've broken containment, this stuff is all over the station.

Alex promised us his arming key if we played along, but now he’s altering the deal. A bit.

I haven’t talked about it yet in this series, but the Weaver enemy type is in charge of building these glowing orange filaments all over the place. The crew has taken to calling this stuff “coral”. It runs down passageways, fills up rooms, passes through ductwork, and wraps itself around major structures. You can walk though it without being harmed, although your vision seems to blur a bit and there’s a soft tingling sound when you do so. The game doesn’t say what the coral feels like, but it’s clear it creates some sort of sensation when you touch it.

Since breaking containment, the Typhon have been very busy expanding the coral. It was confined to a few areas in Psychotronics at the start of the game, but since then it’s been growing at a steady rate. Every time we come back to the lobby we find the coral is a little bigger, a little denser, and a little more imposing. By the late game, the station itself is wrapped in coral.

Apparently, old-Morgan studied this coral and worked out that it consists of “mumble-jumble neurons mumble-bumble consciousness“. She didn’t know what it was for, but she did work out how to destroy it, because that’s just how old-Morgan did things. She called it the “Nullwave Device”, because old-Morgan was a classy lady and “Alien Genocider” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Well, the work isn’t quite done. There are still a few hanging decimal places in the calculations and we need to make sure this all balances out. Alex wants Morgan to go on a spacewalk around the station and scan a few more nodes of coral just to finish off the research and complete the Nullwave Device. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? Just because the outside of the station has been sheathed in a glowing mass of alien brain matter in the space of a few hours doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to find yourself armpit-deep in Weavers and other high-tier foes out there!

Fun fact: Did you know that if a Technopath blasts you during a spacewalk that it will also disable your jetpack, effectively paralyzing you, on top of disabling your weapon and liquifying the fillings in your teeth? I don’t know why I brought that up. I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

After you do these scans, Alex will totally give you his arming key. For realsies this time.He totally won’t.

 

Footnotes:

[1] He totally won’t.



From The Archives:
 

118 thoughts on “Prey 2017 Part 15: Building a Better Morgan

  1. Dreadjaws says:

    Unrelated to Prey, but here’s something that’ll make you Angry, Shamus. Take a look at this video‘s title and go to the 6:53 mark.

    Typolice:

    Alex was in carge of lies

    should be “charge”

    But despite this freedom, I think the game designer intends – or at least expects – for you to go around acting in a more or less heroic fashion. Statistically, this is a pretty reasonable assumption. I don’t know about the Real World™, but in videogames people strongly favor taking the high road. 92% of all Mass Effect players went Paragon. While I wouldn’t take that 92% figure and attempt to smear it across all players and genres, I doubt anyone is surprised to find out that the masses choose heroic fantasy as their escapism of choice. If the Marvel movies have shown us anything, it’s that people enjoy worlds full of colorful heroes where the line between good and evil is nice and clear and the good guys always win in the end.

    I’ve ranted about this before, but this sort of thing isn’t really as clear cut as “people prefer to be the good guys”. People play games to have fun, and anything that’s fun will be done regardless of ethics. The only reason people prefer to play the good guy is because games seem to favor it from a gameplay perspective. Dishonored very famously made it very inconvenient to play the bad guy. Mass Effect made most Renegade responses make you a jerk for no reason, without offering any actual gameplay incentive, and here is Prey outright having less content if you decide to play as the bad guy.

    Now take a game like Saints Row 2 or 3, where under no logical measure you can be considered a good guy (you can argue that your opponents are worse, but that doesn’t make you good), but doing bad things is just so relentlessly fun that people don’t even think about the consequences. Imagine if the game had a serious tone and every time you batted away a random passerby to the stratosphere with your giant dildo you saw their friends kneel down in tears and call you a monster, or you received news that their kids were suddenly left with no support. It wouldn’t be so fun, wouldn’t it? Or imagine that the game stayed the same way, but killing enemies instead of knocking them down suddenly cut you off from 10% to 20% of the missions. You probably wouldn’t be so trigger happy then.

    1. Tizzy says:

      The issue with the bad guy playthrough is the quality of the interactions. If you play the good guy, your efforts get rewarded by special dialogue, bits of stories, etc.

      Plus, in general, designers have the NPCs give you enough stuff to make up for whatever resources you had to expend doing the sidequest. This is nonsense: zero downsides. I’m still waiting for an RPG that commits to taking its moral conundrum seriously, and makes being helpful cost me more than just more time spent playing the game (a reward), and/or makes playing evil tempting.

      E.g.: VTM Bloodlines had a humanity meter with lots of interesting side-effects (frenzy, sociopathic dialogues) if you let it go low, but there was no mechanical incentive to get there, merely curiosity / self-imposed RP. I thought the setting was perfect to give the player access to OP (or just different enough to be interesting) powers or weapons that required low humanity. Something to make evil a temptation. Isn’t that what evil is about?

      1. Killjoy says:

        I didn’t actually do a Psychopath Morgan run, but in my endless curiosity ended up searching on the wiki how to open a specific door, and found out you’re only able to do that if you’re being so trigger happy a villain tells you to go kill more people. I think that’s the only example in Prey where you can’t get some content by being a hero?

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Yeah. Being the bad guy should be considerably easier. That’s where temptation comes from. Riches without the hard work and all that. But games tend to give you more rewards for playing the good guy. Bioshock tried to pretend it was doing this thing well, but the advantage of harvesting the little sisters over helping them is very small at first, then entirely nil as you advance through the game and get much more rewards than you’ll ever need whatever path you choose.

      3. Awetugiw says:

        There have been a few games that have succeeded in making evil tempting. Dishonored springs to mind (which is why I also slightly disagree with Dreadjaws’s assertion that Dishonored made being bad inconvenient), by making most of your fun powers and gadgets useful primarily to get people killed.

        There are also many games that make evil acts tempting because the player is desperate: Papers Please, Frostpunk, etc.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Dishonored gives you the most fun powers to play with by being evil, but also makes the world around you more inconvenient to traverse. The only real evil thing you can do with no consequence is looting, and that’s only because the game refuses to think about it in anything but regular game mechanic terms. It’s useful and there are no bad consequences to do it.

          1. Tizzy says:

            I never understood this view of Dishonored. I’ve played through both installments and DLCs many time, and never felt that the violent path was in any way more fun. Taking enemies out stealthily is my favorite power trip.

            As for the extra enemies that come with the high chaos route, I think of it less as a punishment than a self-balancing mechanism. The run would be unchallenging if you invest heavily in combat-related powers and don’t up the enemies to use these powers on.

            1. Dreadjaws says:

              Look, that’s what everyone says. I prefer the stealthy approach too.

          2. Shufflecat says:

            The game responds to the player killing often by spawning more enemies in later levels.

            Note that you have to be doing A LOT of killing (for this type/genre of game) to actually make this happen. Like, you have to murder over 50% of potential hostiles on over 50% of the maps.

            This could just as easily be framed as the game going “this player enjoys fighting/killing gameplay, so lets give them more of that”. The only way it’s inconvenient is if you weren’t enjoying all that fighting and killing you were choosing to do to get you to that point.

            …Which you might not be, but if you’re killing because the stealth is boring, and you’re not enjoying the killing either, then that implies a conflict of expectations rather than consequences, IMO.

            So I don’t think this is the real problem.

            Dishonored is super-duper lenient in its gameplay consequences, but there’s a vocal contingent that keeps insisting its crushing in it’s consequences. I think this is actually because of how it frames its consequences, rather than anything it does mechanically. Lore wise, if you kill a lot, your character is reframed as a villain who’s accelerating the world’s decline instead of the hero who’s fixing it. Not a “cool” villian like a KOTOR sith lord: a pathetic murderhobo in the service of an incompetent tyranny. And the score card at the end of each mission implies through design and wording that killing and/or being spotted are always a form of failure. At best it contradicts the “I’m the hero because I’m the protagonist, no matter what I do” narrative that some people want to project on their gaming experience (and which, to be fair, has been reinforced by mainstream games for decades).

            But you can “win” or “beat” the game just as readily one way as the other.

            To be clear, a lot of this could have been done better, and there’s some legit jank in there that muddies things considerably (making some of the non-lethal boss takedowns morally as bad or worse than just killing them; and making killing weepers worse than leaving them alive, for example). But It still appears to me that a lot of people who rail about Dishonored “punishing” lethal play are misattributing their reactions.

            1. guy says:

              I don’t think the gameplay consequences really made the game harder by more than the powers made it easier. The Pied Piper of Dunwall and the Swarm Queen of Karnaca don’t really care if there’s half a dozen more dudes being devoured by rats or hosting bloodflies.

        2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

          Making violence fun and then punishing you for it was terrible game design and not the way to make a good/evil choice work.

          1. Awetugiw says:

            I’m tempted to agree. But I do think that the game succeeds at making evil tempting.

            I suppose this may be why this way of making evil tempting is so rarely tried. People generally try to play good guys, but also want to use the awesome powers. So making you choose is annoying.

            1. Shufflecat says:

              This. The game doesn’t punish you mechanically. It basically just tells you “hero is as hero does, so you’re not a hero”.

              It frames killing and general mayhem solutions as more immediately exiting and expedient. Tempting for the same reasons they are in the real world to people with underdeveloped empathy and/or problem solving ability. And it “punishes” them in the same way too: by making the “win” easier and more dynamic, at the cost of making things worse for the world and the people around you in the long term or larger picture.

              When people say it was terrible design, they’re basically criticizing it for being less than a total “protagonist centered morality” power fantasy, implying that that is the best and only thing a game should try to be.

              1. guy says:

                It does have a mechanical impact; there’s extra guards and more defenses on high chaos. There are also more rats, which may attack you or swarm and devour the guards all on their own so they’re a wash.

                1. Thomas says:

                  I don’t think they’re particularly persuasive mechanical impacts though – not compared to the ease of using powers destructively

                  1. guy says:

                    I’d generally agree, though there’s a couple instances where it adds watchtowers or other tech stuff that might give you trouble.

                    Overall, though, I’m not entirely sure it makes sense to say “the high chaos levels are harder because they have more guards”. If you’re doing a low-chaos run you’re playing a stealth game with teleport and a couple other useful pieces of magic (2 is much better in this regard, at least as Emily) while a high-chaos run is a brawler with an array of destructive superpowers. Which one is harder is largely going to depend on which genre you’re better at.

      4. Daimbert says:

        Plus, in general, designers have the NPCs give you enough stuff to make up for whatever resources you had to expend doing the sidequest. This is nonsense: zero downsides. I’m still waiting for an RPG that commits to taking its moral conundrum seriously, and makes being helpful cost me more than just more time spent playing the game (a reward), and/or makes playing evil tempting.

        This came up before, but I think that definitely in RPGs the temptation should not be to the PLAYER, but instead to the CHARACTER. So potentially making things easier for them or giving them rewards or having them avoid penalties AFTER the events of the game, so that the character has reason to take it even if the player themselves get no direct advantage. An example from Mass Effect 3 of something in-game, though, is that you can betray Mordin and sabotage the Genophage cure in a way that no one will find out, and get both the Krogan AND the Salarian support you need, whereas if you choose the good option the Salarian counsellor won’t support you. That’s one that can appeal more to both, and that you can get Salarian support later through other options doesn’t invalidate that. So that’s one case where maybe it makes being good harder than being evil. But then this would fall into the gameplay issues where if you have to do more quests or explore more planets to get what you got for being evil to the PLAYER it ends up being a penalty for being evil even though to the CHARACTER it’s a benefit.

        So in RPGs, where the character is generally more important, I want moral conundrums to tempt the character, not the player.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Good point. I don’t believe the two are incompatible within a game, though, and I’d be glad to see more of both. How to balance both types of temptation would have to depend on how much of an RPG the game is and how much characterization is given to the protagonist.

        2. Sartharina says:

          “Tempt the character’ is not a thing. The Character has no agency – there is only the player making the choices. If the player isn’t tempted, then the character isn’t either. And I’d argue that for MOST RPG players, the player and character are one and the same. RPG protagonists are almost always designed to be self-insert Mary Sues (And people throw a fit if they’re not). The difference between gameplay and narrative doesn’t exist either. The “Explore more planets and do more quests” is the same to the character narrative as it is to the gameplay.

          “Game Over” is also a valid game narrative outcome in an RPG, though it often leads to us rewriting the story to not have our hero’s actions lead to that outcome. The Player giving scarce resources to an NPC in need, then losing because they needed those resources is narratively the same as the Hero failing and dying (Again, a valid narrative outcome) because their generosity was not pragmatic enough. Same with the inverse – The Player witholding resources from an NPC in need (earning in-game ire for it) because they need those resources to win is the same as the Hero withholding those resources (Earning the consequences of their stinginess in the eyes of the people involved), yet being able to triumph over the greater evil.

      5. onodera says:

        > I’m still waiting for an RPG that commits to taking its moral conundrum seriously, and makes being helpful cost me more than just more time spent playing the game

        I haven’t played it myself, but I’ve heard Pathologic did this well. Your supplies there are so scarce you can’t just help everyone and grind for more medicine later.

    2. Pax says:

      A interesting point about Saints Row, because in my recent playings of Watch Dogs Legion, another open world city game where supposedly a lot of the fun is running around and blowing stuff up willy nilly, I actually didn’t want to, because the civilians on the street had a high probability of being friends or relatives of my operatives or people I was trying to recruit (or were even my operatives themselves – nothing worse than killing off your best guy because you just had to drive on the sidewalk).

    3. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Mass Effect made most Renegade responses make you a jerk for no reason, without offering any actual gameplay incentive

      Uh, being a jerk is the incentive. Tell me that hanging up on the Council is not way more fun than any of the boring vanilla crap a Paragon comes out with. Light Side paladins are a complete snoozefest.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        If there’s one overarching problem with “evil options” in games, I think this is it; there’s not one incentive to play the bad guy, there are many, and those often contradict. In this very subthread I’m seeing multiple assertions of what a bad guy playthrough “should” be, and I disagree with all of them.

        Mass Effect being Paragon/Renegade was a conscious attempt to reject the good/evil dichotomy when it came to player choice and despite its deliberate attempt to avoid that obvious pitfall it still failed. Individual Renegade options could be fun and cool but overall the Renegade character wasn’t even consistent; you would have stuff like the conversation with Ashley where one Renegade option is “fuck you, I’ll trust aliens if I want” followed by another conversation where the Renegade option is “fuck you, those aliens are shady”. I’d love to be able to play a consistent non-goodguy character, but even games as brilliant as Fallout: New Vegas whiff on this a lot of the time.

        As for Prey in particular; I think one big problem with the evil options in this game isn’t that the fail to be tempting, it’s that they’re not tempting at all. It’s not fun and actiony enough to engage in butchery for the sake of butchery, yet that’s just about the only reason to take the evil solution most of the time. And in fact the “good” solution to the cook quest is to kill him, even if he’s already incapacitated and you’re doing it in cold blood. Even if you have enough Typhon neuromods that the station thinks you’re hostile, you can hack or fabricate turrets to get through the Cargo Bay session.

        I’ve said in another post in this series that I appreciated the “non-standard game over” even if its value is primarily as a road not taken. I’ll go a step further and say that it gave me more sense of agency than the entire karma system in this game.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Mass Effect being Paragon/Renegade was a conscious attempt to reject the good/evil dichotomy when it came to player choice and despite its deliberate attempt to avoid that obvious pitfall it still failed. Individual Renegade options could be fun and cool but overall the Renegade character wasn’t even consistent; you would have stuff like the conversation with Ashley where one Renegade option is “fuck you, I’ll trust aliens if I want” followed by another conversation where the Renegade option is “fuck you, those aliens are shady”. I’d love to be able to play a consistent non-goodguy character, but even games as brilliant as Fallout: New Vegas whiff on this a lot of the time.

          I think, though, that this is kinda the result of OOC thinking rather than IC thinking, and so wanting to end up choosing “Renegade” options rather than thinking about what your Renegade character would do. In this example, Renegade maps to more Chaotic than Lawful (to use D&D terms) and so a character disagreeing with some perceived authority or order to trust their own gut is Renegade, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take EVERY option if it would make your character inconsistent. And that’s not allowing for subtleties where in the first option it might be Ashley commenting that we shouldn’t even talk to these aliens because the Council disavows them while the second choice might be going back on a deal because you don’t trust the aliens. I’m not saying that that’s the choice you referenced — it almost certainly isn’t — but the point is to think in terms of the character’s viewpoint and not the player’s viewpoint.

          In Mass Effect, I played as a mostly Renegade character who took some neutral and Paragon options at times — the biggest one was that while she was willing to screw everyone else over to get what she wanted, she was not willing to screw over her crew — and still ended up with enough Renegade points to talk Saren into suicide. So Mass Effect did better than most RPGs in that regard by not forcing you to take every Paragon or Renegade option to be able to do interesting things as a Paragon or Renegade (basically, the special options that require a certain amount of Paragon or Renegade points).

          1. guy says:

            In ME1 on my first playthrough I had both Saren options.

            ME2 often left me with neither, sadly.

          2. Trevor says:

            I tried this approach to Mass Effect and still found it rather odd. You’re a jerk to everyone you meet who isn’t your crew and yet still Liara – who is sweetness and light in the first game – thinks that you’re wonderful and you make her feel things she’s never felt before. Like, she’s been in the party and seen you be a giant dick to people and still she’s like, “yeah, you’re great Shepard.”

            1. DanielFogli says:

              It’s not that unusual IRL: If the person – say, Liara – is self centered enough to care only about how the jerk person behaves towards her, as long as jerk person is nice to her everything is fine and dandy. That’s basically the way an abusive relationship begins, people fall for that crap all the time.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Sure, a couple of options definitely result in more satisfying outcomes, but for most of them you’re just being a dick to others for no reason and no reward. It’s satisfying to be a jerk to the Council because they themselves are presented as jerks. But being a prick to, say, Tali or Liara who are your loyal allies for no other reason that you feel like it is unrewarding.

      3. Nixorbo says:

        Mass Effect 2 had two great Renegade effects – if you took the Renegade option in the build-up to meeting GarrusArchangel, you take out a guy in the hanger and the following fight is easier somehow. In another scene, there’s a renegade option to shoot a gas tank that explodes while a villain is monologuing and sets him on fire, making that fight way easier.

        1. Mr. Wolf says:

          Pragmatic perhaps, but I never saw how taking out enemy combatants before they get a shot was “renegade”.

          1. Dotec says:

            Mass Effect has a lot of cinematic influence and takes on those tropes as a conscious choice. ME1 even had a film grain effect to evoke an earlier era of sci-fi films, which is a big enough hint on its own.

            So in the real world, taking out a hostile threat before they have the chance to shoot you is certainly pragmatic and not really “Renegade”. But for a certain kind of film, we expect our protagonist to be a bit more “noble” (for lack of a better term). The hero gives the villain a chance to walk away, waits for them to draw their blade. And when the villain does, it’s that act that proves their undoing.

            If you think about it along those lines, I think it’s totally fine. Paragon is Luke Skywalker waiting for the first blaster to be drawn, Renegade is Han Solo taking out Greedo at the convenient opportunity.

          2. onodera says:

            John Wayne vs Clint Eastwood

          3. Cannongerbil says:

            The renegade/paragon dictotomy is supposed to be pragmatic/idealistic, the idea is that a renegade does whatever is required to get the job done regardless of the cost or your hurt feelings whereas a paragon has more lines they aren’t going to cross regardless of the potential benefits. It didn’t always shake out that way but that’s how it’s supposed to work.

    4. I played through Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous twice recently, and there was definitely a “Being evil just means less content” issue where a lot of the quests have no apparently incentive for the player to get involved other than helping someone. Fortunately, the Mythic Path quests do let you go hog wild playing the appropriate alignment.

      Also, being evil is often implemented to often as being so pointlessly antagonistic and graceless that it’s hard to justify it as even being in self-interest.

      Interestingly, players definitely tend towards amorality when engaging in the actual gameplay parts of the game. Few players seem to even question the kleptomania and constant violence that your average RPG is built around. If there isn’t a dialog choice telling you that killing someone is wrong, they’re fair game.

      1. Mye says:

        On the flip side, Wrath of the Righteous let you play as a swarm, which is cool, unique and interesting, but only if you’re absolutely evil. I never played evil playtrough of any game but I’ll probably do one for it just to play the swarm.

        I think the solution to good v evil is easy, let the player reputation represent your perceive reputation and remove the psychic ability of NPC to know what you’ve done everywhere. If I kill an NPC, I should be able to persuade/bluff my way out of trouble (“I totally tried to save him, but he was in schock and violent, I had to defend myself”) and get the same reward and no one consider me evil. If I go to a new location, no one should know that I’m evil. You can also introduce evil quest chain that anyone can take part of “anonymously”, like most elder scroll let you join the thief/assassin guild without marking you as evil (oblivion even give you a mask that when you wear it the game consider you a different character for reputation purpose, so you can do evil thing without affecting your main character). Ultimately I play good because I don’t want to lose content, If I kill someone their story stop there. I’m also amoral about trespassing/stealing because I don’t want to lose content but I know stealing some special item won’t lose me any content.

        1. Gethsemani says:

          The Swarm path also sees all your NPC companions abandon you, which results in a huge derth of content in an already anemic last act. With any other Mythic Path you at least get to finish up some companion quests. This is exactly the problem that Bloodsquirrel talks about in that Evil means less content. Some good companions will leave you in most of the evil paths, but the same is not true for the evil companions if you go for good paths.

          1. guy says:

            On the other hand, the Lich path has some exclusive companions.

      2. guy says:

        My first playthrough is the CG path and I absolutely love it. You basically assemble an army of whimsical gnomes, halflings, butterfly angel things, a candy-loving butterfly dragon, trees, and mimics and go around singing a song of plant growth like you’re some sort of Disney princess or something… and then you steamroll the demons and get to do stuff like say “Let’s not wait for the queen’s arrival and approval; we’ll overrun this demon foothold before they have time to prepare with our gnomish cavalry sculptors!” and proceed to do it. You’re so chaotic you don’t even respect the genre conventions.

        It did bug me that you’re supposed to stick to your alignment (I’ve heard you can’t progress your mystic path past a certain point if you don’t) and picking [Good] options drags you towards neutral on the chaos axis, but it’s an improvement on Kingmaker giving options for a specific axis combo and then not giving you nine options in every morality-influencing conversation.

        It has the advantage that you’re still a decent and heroic person with every motivation to fight the demons in defense of the innocent, so it’s logical that you’re praised as the hero of the crusade, and it’s pretty hilarious when team Lawful Good is just completely exasperated with your weird whimsicalness.

    5. Daimbert says:

      I’ve ranted about this before, but this sort of thing isn’t really as clear cut as “people prefer to be the good guys”. People play games to have fun, and anything that’s fun will be done regardless of ethics.

      As a counter to Shamus’ example, what I had heard was that in World of Warcraft and in The Old Republic more players took the ostensibly evil sides — Horde and Empire — than the ostensibly evil sides. In line with your overall comments, it seems like many players will take the evil side if they think that it will be feasible to play evil, which those MMOs had to provide in at least some sense. Although I think it’s less simply about gameplay incentives, but more over whether it will make sense and be consistent to play as evil. There have always been lots of complaints in RPGs about the quests and stories being set up so that if you were playing as an evil character most of the things you have to do in the main quest and story are things you wouldn’t do, and in many of the cases where that isn’t true it maps to a “I have to save the world because I’m in it and it being destroyed would be a negative from my perspective.” Basically, playing evil in an RPG has mostly resulted in a poor story, and so players tend to try to avoid that.

      Still, I definitely played Dark Side in KotOR and Sith Lords, and it did work out reasonably well, and both of them give some choices at the end that fit into those alignments, so that’s how I think RPGs, at least, can give incentives to play as evil characters, as long as they make it clear from the outset that such a thing will be feasible and result in interesting roleplaying choices.

      1. Geebs says:

        I thought KoToR 1’s dark side options were brilliant. I think for a habitual gaming goody-two-shoes like myself, it’s more fun to play as a cackling maniac than something more serious. That, and the plot a) gave Dark Side characters stuff to do and b) paid off in a suitably Sith-ian fashion.

      2. Pink says:

        People who played Warcraft 3/Frozen Throne would have every reason to see the Alliance as the bad guys.

    6. bobbert says:

      FTL did a good job making moral choices real.

      1. Fizban says:

        FTL does that by mostly removing any player input, as well as having no response from the game: either you have the thing needed to pass the event and get a guaranteed reward, or you don’t and the gamble is almost never worth it. Sure I’ve had plenty of FTL runs where I just cruise on past events where oh no people are dying, but I don’t feel bad about it. There’s almost no story in the game, no roleplaying cohesion. Your crew have names but they only matter for their race and skill perks. Your ship has no personality. No one cares if you’re a monster or not, in the current or later systems. The only thing that matters is getting to the end, and depending on randomness the most efficient path may involve being a goody goody or cutting a bloody swath through troves of innocents. If I have a crew/part/etc that can save someone for sure, I will, because I’ll get a reward. If I don’t, I won’t, because the reward is on average never going to be worth the loss incurred at the high failure chance.

        It’s not really a moral choice, it’s just a “do you want to succeed or handicap yourself to no benefit” choice. In a game where every one of those choices was accompanied by empathy-triggering animations and voice acting, maybe self-recrimination would do the job, but otherwise with no-one to make moral comment, there is no morality in the choice.

    7. Fred Starks says:

      I feel the opposite on Dishonored- being low morality was far more convenient for me than good morality, and I usually go Lawful Good in games. When doing a good aligned or even full pacifist run, the large majority of the abilities available to learn are largely useless to you, and when you just play sociopath mode, you’ve got plenty of tools at your disposal. The obstacles presented to you by the world changing for the worse weren’t really that much of an issue for me- and when they were, they were inconvenient in a way that could be fun. Worrying about unconscious people barely touching water puddles and dying from it wasn’t.

      This leans well into the “being a good person isn’t easy,” and that’s a fine theme to run with. On the other hand, I feel it gets somewhat sabotaged as I found that Dishonored’s narrative very much pushes you to play high morality and the majority of good guy gameplay was simply inconvenient. There’s a large portion of the game you’re just not interacting with in general.

      That’s just my unpopular take though.

    8. Freddo says:

      I liked the corruption system in Warhammer Dawn of War II. The struggle against chaos and corruption is of course a strong theme in the entire setting, and the ingame rewards for giving in to corruption are actually worthwhile.

      1. guy says:

        I felt it suffered a bit from the fact that you lose the purity powers entirely at the first rung of corruption, so you really don’t want to be in the middle.

    9. imminentchurchengine says:

      Demons’ Souls is an example of a game with extra content for “evil” players – there’s a hidden character who will reward you for murdering various important NPCs, and there’s not really an equivalent for a “good guy” player. (And, hilariously, there’s another evil character you can cut loose who will also start murdering important NPCs if you don’t catch on and stop them quickly enough.) The later games would flirt with stuff like this but they’ve never gone quite as hard since.

    10. guy says:

      I think the main reason people often avoid evil playthroughs is that evil options tend to come in two varieties:

      1. Just straight-up murder people for no reason/a petty one.
      2. Be a jerk in some petty unsatisfying fashion.

      The thing is, memorable and beloved villains are not petty. They may be complex, with subtle shadings that generally do not manifest as random dickery, or they’re grandiose. Darth Vader only occasionally kills people and carries an aura of control and intimidation. The Joker murders people at his whim but always in a stylish fashion and with an engaging madness backed by Mark Hamil or Heath Ledger turning in a masterful performance. Kane of Command And Conquer is quite genial with his minions.

      CRPGs just seem to have trouble making evil options have much of a pull unless you just feel like roleplaying a complete psycho, like when I made a Pathfinder Kingmaker character literally based off a light novel serial killer who murders people at every opportunity (except companions because gameplay). I think there’s two reasons for that.

      First, they’re not going to make two campaigns. There’s a hard route split at the final dungeon, tops. If you’re lucky you get to go through the same areas in a different fashion for different reasons, but usually there’s a main thread and that thread has you be generally heroic and save the kingdom/galaxy, so there isn’t room for a machevelian grand plan or defecting. Pathfinder Wrath Of The Righteous lets you turn into an all-consuming swarm of demonic insects, but not until act 5 and I’m pretty sure you go through the same areas and meet the same people judging by the number of [Requires Swarm Mystic Path] options I see. Presumably all variations on “FEED!” Before that you’re a crusader hero even if you’re lining up for that or Lich or running with the Demon path.

      Second, the game just isn’t going to wreck the difficulty curve. The evil rewards can’t be too tempting because it’d either make the game too easy or put the good path beyond the abilities of many players. So you know that the reward for the evil path isn’t going to be great. And if there’s a morality meter then you’re likely going to get the rewards for committing to one side or the other, so you’re unlikely to want to consider choices individually.

    11. EmmEnnEff says:

      I understand that games often make it inconvenient to be a jerk, but oftentimes, those consequences are way down the road, and are not clearly connected to the immediate yes/no decision.

      Yes, Dishonored gets harder when you kill everyone you meet, but you won’t even notice until six or seven missions after you start your murder spree.

  2. Dreadjaws says:

    So in a game where Morgan is heroic, it creates a bit of a mystery. Somehow Morgan’s repeated exposure to these uncaring aliens and their derived technology has resulted in a personality shift that turns the evil Morgan of the past into a self-sacrificing hero.

    We don’t have to give the Typhon credit for making Morgan heroic, but then who does get the credit? What brought about this change? Was it the neuromods themselves? The constant memory-wipes?

    The real answer is, of course, that the game leads you in this direction by design, but from a story perspective it makes perfect sense to credit the Typhon. Periodically jamming a bunch of alien goo into your brain with a giant needle has got to come with lasting consequences, even if you periodically remove it, and particularly if this stuff messes with your memory.

    I mean, hard drives will suffer from constant writing and erasing of data, and at some point they’ll start to fail. The human brain is not much different in that respect. In the real world, the results of brain trauma often result in personality changes, but they very rarely limit themselves to this, so Morgan would probably end up with some other issues, like random tremblings (which would cause problems with aim) or even larger memory problems where they might outright forget stuff they learned an hour ago. Programming that sort of stuff would probably have ended up making the game too hard or complex, so even if they considered it at some point, they clearly discarded the idea.

    1. Shufflecat says:

      This reminds me of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, where for the first 2/3 of the game you’re meant to have a limit to how many praxis kits (neuromod equivalent level up currency) you can install, and the further you go over that, the more dangerous it will be for Jensen. It’s not just implied, but outright stated, that exceeding this limit is borderline suicide.

      But in-game you can completely ignore that limit and crank that shit out as far as you want. The only consequences are tiny infrequent HUD glitches that are cosmetic and don’t interfere with gameplay. That and occasional codec calls with your cyber doc wherein Jensen acts like he has no memory of any of this and the cyber doc very politely reminds you of the non-existent danger and very tentatively suggests you deactivate some abilities.

      You can feel the tension between one group of devs wanting to implement this as an actual system, and another group of devs who are absolutely terrified of ever saying “no” to the player.

      In both DE:MD and Prey, I don’t see any reason why a sytem that applies consequences like those described would be difficult to implement on any technical level. But I do see a general trend in games of devs walking on eggshells trying to avoid sticking players with consequences that could be perceive as cockblocking their power fantasy.

      And the sad thing is, this isn’t an illegitimate fear. See the discussions about Dishonored above, for example. In reality the game is extremely lenient in it’s consequences for player murderhoboing, but the fact that there are literally ANY consequences at all seems to be enough to make a lot of people talk like it’s overwhelmingly punishing to players who want to play that way.

      1. Damiac says:

        The thing about dishonored isn’t people being mad at consequences existing, it’s people being mad after they suffer through a good playthrough playing hide and seek and hide the unconcious body from the rats and water, and using 1 or 2 powers, then play the evil playthrough where they get to use all their toys and have fun.

        That’s what my problem with it was. It wasn’t fun to play the good way. I had to force myself to push through. The evil way was fun and the game had a lot more tools for it.

        It’s pretty disingenuous to suggest the people here complaining about dishonored are just mad their murderous ways were punished, but that strawman is much easier to win an argument against I guess. Just feeds into the whole “Gamers are entitled manbabies” narrative some more.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that it’s not that Dishonored fails to be player-centric enough; it’s that it’s too player-centric, in a way that doesn’t make sense.

          Much like how it’s hard to agree on what a proper villain playthrough should be, it’s hard to say what Dishonored’s Chaos should have been. Should it be a straight morality meter? Reputation? How much your actions spread the plague? For any individual component you could make the case for any of these, but the full picture ends up being that it’s a gamey attempt to disincentivize killing through a score penalty like you see in the likes of Hitman or Metal Gear.

          I would be happy to play more games that tell a compelling story that aren’t base power fantasy, but Dishonored is absolutely not that.

        2. Geebs says:

          For me, the annoying thing about Dishonoured’s morality system was that I was disincentivised from one of my preferred playstyles, which is to try to ghost the level but, once discovered, accept that I had screwed up and “go loud”. Instead I ended up save-scumming.

          I’d also argue that it’s pretty unfair to criticise the game’s audience for not knowing about the relatively generous threshold for getting the good ending. The in-game text is extremely judgmental and it would take multiple ten-hour playthroughs to work out where the limits actually are.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        See, I remember playing through MD the first time and completely forgetting about the whole “Oh, you shouldn’t have so many augmentations unlocked at the same time” thing, since my gameplay wasn’t affected at all, but in my second playthrough I definitely ran into some issues where my character would malfunction. I don’t know if it’s a thing that’s only activated in higher difficulty levels and the story acts like it’s omnipresent or I just ran into some bug. Perhaps they did implement this system at first and then backpedaled on it but left it in the code, so it might activate on its own sometimes.

        Then again, it might just have been a consequence of the game just crapping on me. Dishonored 1 and 2 very irritatingly keep killing enemies that I left knocked out and then blames me for it. And I don’t mean in a “I left them too high up and then they fell without me noticing” way, but in a “they are exactly when and how I left them, but for some reason the game now decided they are dead” way. Deus Ex did the same a couple of times, but it had the decency of not counting those as real deaths, so you could still finish a “no kill” playthrough with no issue.

        Well, now I went on a tangent, but it genuinely pisses me off when these games have rewards and achievements that depend on functions of the game that are always failing to work properly.

      3. Mr. Wolf says:

        As I recall in DX:MD, the limitation only applied to your experimental augmentations and severe drawbacks (malfunctioning augs, unexpected aug disabling) would only apply if you activated several of them.

        I never actually tested it though, since with the exception of remote hacking none of them helped with the stealth runs that I prefer.

  3. Christopher Wolf says:

    Wait, you are saying the dude in charge of lies is lying to me? Mind blown!

  4. Tizzy says:

    There are some frameworks where memory wipes alone could easily explain a more empathetic Morgan.

    In the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (works that the Arkane writers would definitely have some degree of familiarity with), all the moral failings of mankind are blamed on mankind’s fall from the State of Nature, an idealized state before possessions and bosses, and the forming of civilizations. (Gross simplification, as I am not a specialist. Anyway, you don’t need to be exacting in your representation of a philosophical idea to draw inspiration from it for a game, see Bioshock.)

    In that interpretation, successive memory wipes would help Morgan forget about whatever incentives she thought Society gave her to behave monstrously to her fellow human beings, and allow her to connect with the Talos survivors on a more simple, genuine level, and care about their suffering.

    1. Jake says:

      Agreed with your take here- it’s not that prior Morgan was self-considered villainous, but that she had gradually rationalized herself into an extreme “ends justify the means” perspective, which is understandable, albeit incorrect, with stakes as high as they are in this case. Her “reset” shifts her from big-picture to the here and now, and also alters her self-identity, removing both a martyrdom complex and an “I’m the boss, everything here exists to serve my goals” attitude. Of course, this is basically just head-canon, not necessarily the author’s intent. Regardless, I very much appreciate a take on “evil” morality that isn’t just selfishness for its own sake. Almost all selfish behavior irl is rationalized in one way or another.

    2. John says:

      I don’t have a serious problem with the idea that amnesia might make Morgan nicer. If you’ve forgotten that you dislike someone, you’re less likely to be a jerk to them when you encounter them again. If you’ve forgotten that you are in a position of power over someone then you are less likely to try to exert that power over them. But, ugh, I can’t stand Rousseau. The so-called State of Nature as Rousseau describes it is neither natural nor a state that any human has ever actually existed in. Not even chimpanzees live like that, for goodness sake.

      1. bobbert says:

        I knew Hobbes was anti-Rouseau, but I just realized John Calvin was too.

        1. John says:

          Hobbes would probably argue that amnesia would make Morgan worse because she’s forgotten all about the social contract. Calvin is a theologian rather than a philosopher and so, in deference to Shamus’ rules, I will refrain from speculating about what he would say.

          1. EmmEnnEff says:

            Morgan hasn’t forgotten everything, just everything prior to arrival on Talos.

            This is a version of Morgan that has not yet spent a few years(?) feeding people to aliens, but had presumably lived in an, uh, society.

          2. Corsair says:

            Knowing Calvin, I believe he would go over a cliff in a wagon.

        2. ContribuTor says:

          The Typhon are really just a non-box-based transmogrifier, when you get right down to it.

          1. Henson says:

            Boxes? Who needs boxes when you’ve got the transmogrifier gun?!

    3. ContribuTor says:

      I like this idea, but the challenge I see is that the wipes don’t necessarily reset Morgan to a “state of nature” clean slate. They reset her to a point where she’s already co-CEO of a major corporation, which presumably means she’s spent a lot of time climbing a corporate ladder.

      Unless you want to argue that Morgan was good and virtuous before she encountered the Typhon, it’s hard to argue that resetting her to a post-CEO but pre-Typhon state would strip away all the parts of her personality that inclined her to evil.

      Whatever in Morgan inclined her to be space Hitler / TIM would have been well established and not (by the game’s stated rules) affected by memory wipes.

      1. Coming Second says:

        Nepotism could be used to argue the Good Morgan case. It’s not obvious to what extent her family owning the company accounts for her being a CEO of it, but we can assume ‘a lot’, and for that reason she may have led a fairly sheltered life up until the point she was put in charge of the Cerberus RnD Division. Which in turn could account for the sudden shift her personality took.

    4. Shufflecat says:

      Basically, you can take it as a “nature vs. nurture” thing, in which the game is arguing that Morgan’s previous sociopathy is due to “nurture”, and therefore wiping her memory allows her a second chance to re-develop as a more empathetic person… or not, depending on the player.

      Still a bit cracked though, in that for one, Morgan didn’t loose all her memory, just the memories of the past few months, so all her formative personality stuff would still be intact. And for another in the end you find out Yu were never playing as Morgan: Yu were playing as a typhon neuromodded with Morgan’s (recent) memories, and the typhon would be bringing it’s own sociopathic bias to the mix. The whole point of this experiment was to see if a typhon could be “humanized” by experiencing a human POV, so either Morgan made a REALLY BIG turnaround as a result of her memory loss (unlikely, given the above), or Alex fucked things up yet again by choosing a terrible human example for the typhon to learn from.

      There is a certain “it’s like poetry: it rhymes” quality to the idea that Morgan and the Typhon are effectively learning to be human together (or rather the typhon is learning by experiencing Morgan learning)… but that’s still kinda borked by the fact that Morgan’s formative memories are intact, so she shouldn’t be going through that much change.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Admittedly the thing under the spoiler tags trumps most other considerations, but leaving that aside I do remember the game mentioning that the memory loss on removing neuromods was not perfect. So here’s the thing, maybe Morgan initially agrees to the Groundhog Day method of testing, but then it keeps going, and going, and she keeps reliving this day over and over with no way out and some part of her remembers the fragments of it and being effectively constantly gaslit by Alex and the science personel. We know she was already suspicious of Alex because she made the calendar operators but now she is effectively experiencing, if not remembering completely consciously, the life of a test subject. Maybe between that and the confusion that could be something to push her towards more empathic behaviour.

    5. guy says:

      I think if the memory wipes alone were causing it then there wouldn’t be any need for a personality test about twenty minutes after waking up. She’d be pretty much the same person each iteration, and she’d have her memories up to the installation of the first neuromod so she wouldn’t be rapidly constructing a personality from scratch based on a few words and some brief tests. Her personality might be dramatically different from before she entered the simulation but not between tests until some time has passed.

  5. Joshua says:

    Captain Obvious, but detecting strong traces of Planescape: Torment here.

    “This is all your fault. You’ve committed such atrocities in your (forgotten) past that it is impossible for even the gods to forgive you.”

    1. Pax says:

      That was my thought. “Uh oh, amnesia time again. Roll on the chart for a new personality!”

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        TNO: The Inquisitive Incarnation

        Yu: The Least Inquisitive Incarnation

      2. bobbert says:

        Huh? I got a 20.


        19-20: roll again twice.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      The “you were the bad guy all along” twist is a very old trope. I guarantee you it was a thing long before videogames existed. Though I like the way this game frames it. You have an antagonist in the way of your brother Alex, but the game doesn’t lie about his place in the story. He genuinely was doing terrible things here. The only information that’s hidden from you is that you were doing them alongside him.

      Other works have tried to pretend the bad guy was someone else or hide them from view so their identity is a mystery, but Prey plays with the audience’s knowledge of existent tropes to keep this twist properly hidden. Alex’s constant talk about his work will convince you that he’s not merely a decoy, and when he starts talking about the old you and how you would have approved you’re likely to think it’s classic villain’s delusion.

      The only thing about his dialogue that didn’t sit well with me was the line when he mentions having broken your arm in retaliation as kids. That came out of nowhere and absolutely seems to be there only to make him look like the definite bad guy of the story.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        The “you were the bad guy all along” twist is a very old trope. I guarantee you it was a thing long before videogames existed. Though I like the way this game frames it. You have an antagonist in the way of your brother Alex, but the game doesn’t lie about his place in the story. He genuinely was doing terrible things here. The only information that’s hidden from you is that you were doing them alongside him.

        This general approach is something I really appreciated about this game; the plot has twists, but for the most part it doesn’t care when you figure out those twists. The seeds of this particular revelation are all the way back in the tutorial (Morgan did volunteer for the simulation lab) and reinforced in some other places (she regularly interacted with Psychotronics employees) but whether this video was a surprise, or just a scene playing out showing off what you already suspected, it works.

        Most of the twists in this game have a similar pattern; a particularly genre-savvy player might just guess it immediately. Then you’ll have emails and other context clues for someone thorough. Then mandatory sequences seed a few more hints. Then finally the game just tells you. This is way better than the writers thinking that the player should have X shocking revelation at Y moment, especially when compared to games that are willing to tie the story into nonsense that doesn’t make any sense after the fact just to preserve their precious plot twist (e.g. Fallout 4)

        1. Thomas says:

          Definitely, the attitude that twists have to be surprising above all else leads to writers that shove their stories full of nonsense, because who would guess that thing which doesn’t make sense is true?

          The best twist is one that reinterprets what you already know. For that to happen the foundations have to be laid in the story ahead of time and some people will pick up on that.

          1. Syal says:

            Trying to surprise the audience is literally trying to fool everybody all of the time. Even if you’re much smarter than your audience, that many people can brute force the answer, unless you hide information* or make the answer too stupid to consider.

            *(Which is actually not a terrible option. I read a book where a father left a cryptic hint for his son to follow, and it’s eventually revealed the hint was some incredibly obscure trivia that only family members would ever know and it took the son the entire book to realize and remember it.)

          2. Smith says:

            Unfortunately, a lot of people think a twist they see coming is a bad twist, which leads to writers forcing nonsensical twists.

            There’s also people who miss the hints, and call it bad writing. Or people who misinterpret the hints, turn out to be wrong, and call THAT bad writing. There’s rumors of big-name movies being rewritten – poorly – just to avoid twists and resemblances to other movies.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          a particularly genre-savvy player might just guess it immediately. Then you’ll have emails and other context clues for someone thorough. Then mandatory sequences seed a few more hints. Then finally the game just tells you. This is way better than the writers thinking that the player should have X shocking revelation at Y moment

          Heh. The number of TV shows that have fallen into this trap, making ‘surprise the audience’ a higher priority that ‘making sense’. I mean, according to TV shows, if I want to take over an organisation – ANY organisation – the only thing I need to do is kill the current leader and declare myself in charge, right?

          (My favorite example of this, I think, was in an early series of Agents of SHIELD. The head of Hydra was dead, so Grant Ward – the show’s resident backstabber / bad guy – simply went to…a bar. Somewhere. And hit some people.
          Now HE’s was the new head of Hydra, apprently. They weren’t characters we’ve met before, and he didn’t even kill them!
          Though I am ~90% sure that they were members of Hydra, so there’s that…)

      2. Syal says:

        I guarantee you it was a thing long before videogames existed.

        “I wanted Hauser back! But you had to be QUAID!”

        …and, you know. Oedipus.

      3. Cannongerbil says:

        The only thing about his dialogue that didn’t sit well with me was the line when he mentions having broken your arm in retaliation as kids. That came out of nowhere and absolutely seems to be there only to make him look like the definite bad guy of the story.

        I’ll be honest here, I always thought that line was hyperbole and was supposed to be just Alex reminiscing on childhood escapades, and that sentiment seems to be mirrored in most places that have discussed prey. To my knowledge this place seems to be the only place where people take it to be an attempt to paint Alex and a psychopath or a villain instead of a throwaway line.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          I did read “Morgan’s arm was broken” as something that literally happened, but probably wasn’t premeditated. Like he got so mad he tore into Morgan but the arm breaking was just a side effect of how mad and aggressive he got and not the intended result.

          1. Alex says:

            I agree. Like if he’d shoved her in anger and she fell badly, or something like that.

    3. Zgred77 says:

      Not only that, but the whole concept of “rebuilding” your morality seems very P:T-esque (and since Avellone worked on Prey, maybe it’s not a coincidence). Prey poses similiar questions: what really is the source of your personality? Are you simply being shaped by external stimuli? If so, are you responsible for anything that you did? Or maybe it’s someting that you were born with? If so, how could you ever change yourself? If you can’t, then again – how can you be judged for anything? Etc etc.

      I’m not saying that those kind of questions are unique to this or that video game (obviously not). But combining that with using amnesia as a plot device and making references to your past “personalities”… well, it’s seems very similiar to me.

  6. Thomas says:

    Maybe you could argue that humans are instinctively ‘moral’ as far as empathising with other human beings, co-operating with each other, showing loyalty and reciprocation etc. and that unempathetic behaviour is mostly learned or situational. So the constant memory wipes are resetting Morgan to her base state.

    Or, that moral / immoral behaviour is reinforcing. As a test subject Morgan isn’t in a position where she’s able to perform unethical acts as often, and she’s slowly overwriting her old neural pathways which leads to more moral behaviour that leads to more overwriting.

    I’ve just finished reading ‘Foreigner’ by Cherryh and that book is all in on the idea that our concept of morality is mostly hardwired, which creates huge barriers to interaction with alien races that have different wiring – not just in disagreeing about actions but in basic understanding.

    At one point an alien guard has told the protagonist and a high ranking alien to go on whilst he sacrifices himself holding off hostiles. The protagonist ignores this to save him – and not only is that not seen as a moral act, it’s seen as abhorrent. To the aliens he’s put the higher ranking individuals at risk in an act which prevents the lower ranking individuals from carrying out their duty. It looks like an act of treachery to them, not heroism. It’s hard to understand why – it’s like they’ve seen someone slap themselves in the middle of a fight.

  7. Adam says:

    Minor editorial comment, but because these posts are serialized rather than a single book, and I didn’t play Prey that far, I had to go back and remind myself who Danielle Sho was (archivist voice-puzzle lady).

    This made me appreciate the quality of Shamus’s writing, because that’s the first time its happened in this series despite the game being a bit of a character soup of people and relationships all out-of-order and out-of-context at the time.

  8. Chad Miller says:

    There is some evidence to suggest the “Morgan’s personality has been randomized” hypothesis. In particular, there’s an email suggesting that this is the reason Superthermal neuromod production was banned; one of the test-Morgans showed such a disregard of the researchers’ lives that they were afraid she could have killed someone with it.

    There are other emails that suggest that the personality test at the end of trial runs was started because of unwarranted aggressive behavior toward testing personnel, but I think it’s deliberately left vague whether this was legitimately Morgan being a problem, or if it was an understandable reaction to mistreatment like those psychiatrist logs in the Trauma Center.

    1. Cannongerbil says:

      I’m reasonably certain the implication is that Morgan didn’t know that she could create fire with her mind and accidentally almost killed someone because of that ignorance, not that she deliberately tried to set someone on fire. Remember the way the test are set up implies that using typhon powers should come instinctively once they are installed, even if you have no knowledge that they are.

  9. Inwoods says:

    > Phychotronics

    #corrections

  10. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    They way I see the shift in Morgan personality (if you play her as a decent person) is that she reverts to her personality when she first arrived. Back then she was already driven but not a monster.
    When she came to Talos 1 she developed a serious case of SCIENCE!!! brain when studying the typhon, and traded her soul piece by piece for more advancements, justifying her actions every time and growing colder, thinking in the end it’ll all be worth it for humanity.
    But this time the same original personality just sees the result of what happened. Dead people, monsters everywhere. She’s just horrified that anyone could do that, long before she learns it was her.

    1. Floogler says:

      traded her soul piece by piece for more advancements, justifying her actions every time and growing colder, thinking in the end it’ll all be worth it for humanity.

      So she’s every 21st century techbro.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Yeah, this reversion was what I assumed too

    2. MadHiro says:

      I like this take a lot. People are very good at convincing themselves of things by degrees, less good at doing so in vast jumps. If you were able to show a person doing terrible things now to themselves twenty years ago, it feels likely that they would be horrified by it, having none of the gradualism and callusing that made the atrocity palatable to their present self.

    3. Henson says:

      This is a good theory, but it’s insufficient. If it’s true, then Morgan should only have the one shift in personality when the first memory wipe happens, and then all other resets bring her back to that same place. But Alex describes it as a process, of every reset being somewhat different. This is even further supported by the fact that Morgan programs different Operators with completely contradictory instructions during her many resets. The more probable explanation is that the resets themselves, or possibly the different Typhon neuromods, are changing her personality in different ways each time.

      Speaking of which: do the neuromods affect people’s minds in unintended ways? When Calvino exhibits his memory problems, my first assumption was that the neuromods were at fault, that the Typhon material was influencing the human brain, perhaps even consciously in a manner to the Typhon’s benefit. And Morgan appears to support this idea in her Looking Glass message when she claims that everything needs to be destroyed, including herself. But…nobody else brings this idea up? What gives?

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        There are at least a few discussions in Psychotronics about personality drift (one email has a guy observing that his sense of humor seems to have changed, to the point where it’s freaking out his own girlfriend)

        I don’t remember the part about neuromods influencing people to the Typhon benefit. I do remember a couple of big freakouts, one being that guy in the Neuromod division who locked down the DRM before trying to dig his own mods out with a scalpel, and at least one other person who glimpsed the Apex

  11. Damiac says:

    I think they had a couple of opportunities they just missed out on that would have made being evil a bit more tempting:

    1. Neuromod creation. They already have you needing to hack the DRM or whatever. Make it so you have to murder some people or something similarly evil to unlock the DRM. Frankly, this is what I was expecting, so maybe it’d be too obvious. It could tie in with the diseased lady, either use these special parts to make her medicine or use them to fix the neuromod DRM.

    2. Typhon powers. They make the turrets mad at you, and make nightmares spawn more often or whatever, but they could have made them more powerful with the downside that they require you to kill a human, do some evil thing, or something.

    3. The people in cargo. Have Morgan stumble across a recorder of herself, saying that performing such and such experiment would allow her to create a new super neuromod of some sort. The experiment just requires releasing these captive typhon into cargo and letting them eat the people there.

    4. Make the evil option appear to be more pragmatic. If we let any humans off this station, they could possibly bring Typhon back to earth, it’s not worth the risk, so we have to kill them all.

    5. Similar to above, with different stakes. If we let the people off the station, they’ll tell everyone about how evil neuromods are, and then humanity won’t live up to its full potential.

    6. Similar to above, except the this time we need to prepare humanity to fight off powerful aliens, and neuromods are our only hope of achieving it. Will you sacrifice some innocents to save billions?

    Some of it’s really basic star wars dark side stuff, easy power at the cost of your own corruption, but the idea works. Players want power. Players sometimes want to be good. Creating a conflict there creates interesting decisions.

    The other options give you room to argue about which is truly the most good option. Is it more noble to have clean hands, or to spill the blood of the innocent to save the rest? Is it selfish to doom (or fail to save) humanity for the sake of your own clean conscience? It may not really rise above the level of the classic trolley problem in philosophy, but that’s pretty good for a video game.

    1. Ophelia says:

      Number 4 literally is what the plot is. In fact it kinda doesn’t make SENSE that Morgan would be rescuing people because for the vast majority of the game, the goal is to detonate the entire station, vaporize everything and everyone on board because you CAN’T risk the Typhon getting to Earth. You only get alternative options in the final couple minutes of the game. In fact there is a minor moral choice on the Talos I Bridge, where you find out a shuttle full of people has left the station and is heading to Earth. You have no way of verifying if they’re carrying a truckload of Mimics on board, so you have 10 mins to decide if you let them go, or detonate the shuttle remotely.

  12. Erik says:

    Perhaps stripping out mods randomizes your personality a little bit, and we were just lucky that the dice-roll nudged her towards “hero” rather than “needy self-absorbed temperamental basket case”.

    I’d go full-on Anthropic Principle here: We experience Morgan as the potentially-heroic personality not because we are lucky, but because the “needy self-absorbed temperamental basket case”s all self destructed in the first few rooms, got reset, and will wake up as someone new tomorrow. We are playing through with the personality that could survive.

    Or, for the 7% Renegades, perhaps they DO experience Morgan as the needy self-absorbed temperamental basket case, win with it, and there’s no contradiction.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      Sure, but that works best without a ticking clock. If time were no factor, we’d play as resetting Morgan after resetting Morgan until one can function.

      But here there’s a very limited time window between “Typhon escape” and “Typhon escape and eat the earth.” You have to get pretty lucky to hit a “useful” Morgan in at best a few tries.

  13. ContribuTor says:

    I like comparing this to Amnesia:The Good One, where you’re a terrible person who did terrible things, and who mind wipes yourself as a way to forget how terrible you are long enough to undo the Big Evil.

    I don’t think Morgan’s motives for being mind wiped are as pure (she doesn’t really seek out a memory wipe as much as accept it as a cost of doing business), but it is the mechanism that allows her to put into motion a plan (which is HER plan) that she likely wouldn’t consider undertaking otherwise.

  14. Zekiel says:

    Random aside – when you Igwe in the cargo container, I was just on autopilot and hacked the door to his container, since that’s what you do with every door you come across. At this point he predictably freaked out and then asphyxiated, since he’s not wearing a space suit. Then I laughed at myself and reloaded.

  15. Nentuaby says:

    Personally, my understanding of how and why Morgan’s personality drift made her so much better is… Kind of a hopeful take on human nature. Old Morgan wasn’t intrinsically sociopathic; she was a horrible person because she was raised by powerful, corrupt executives (ones proven over the course of the game to be even more murderous than either of their kids) to be their perfect successor. New Morgan’s personality drift, I think, is the result of more than just her episodic memories getting damaged… She’s been kind of washed clean of her upbringing, of the ingrained habits that came from her rotten influences.

    New Morgan is what Old Morgan could have been if she wasn’t carefully trained out empathy, if she was allowed to observe her “inferiors'” humanity rather than taught that they existed to serve her.

  16. Gautsu says:

    Just out of curiosity but why do so many people want an “evil” playthrough to have the equivalent ease of a “good” playthrough? There are so many daily examples of evil being committed actively and passively in our world that being heroic in a passtime seems like a refutation of the nihilism I see when I look out my window

    1. ContribuTor says:

      I don’t know that people want an equivalent ease. They want to feel like their choices to be good or evil are validated with reasonable consequences.

      It’s weird that being a kleptomaniac who doesn’t get caught doesn’t make your play through significantly easier despite the obvious wealth it should bring you. It’s weird that being a known sociopath doesn’t make anyone less inclined to approach you on the street and ask you to rescue their favorite shirt from a pack of hell demons for a $.05 reward. It’s weird that an evil character (or, heck, even a non-paragon character) armed to the teeth will let the big baddie monologue when they could just shoot them and have done with it.

      Meanwhile, it’s weird that a character going the high road and refusing the easy path doesn’t have it cost them anything. It’s weird when something your character in theory does without hope of reward is the most rewarding path. It’s weird when being a ridiculously “good” character for an entire play through still means you have to hike to Mt. Doom and back to prove yourself to the bartender who wants you to guard the register for 5 minutes while he’s on break.

      The games go out of their way to present choices, and track what’s theoretically “good” and “bad” behavior, but don’t (except in very specific predefined ways) validate your choice by having it have consequences.

      “Equivalent” is exactly the problem. I like Rutskarn’s take from his Elder Scrolls series about Skyrim – designers want every character type and every playstyle to have access to every scrap of content. That implies every choice is consequence free in a meaningful way.

      1. SkySC says:

        I’d add to that: it’s weird when a game gives you the choice to play an “evil character”, but then there is no in-world motivation to progress the main story other than an appeal to your character’s altruism. In many RPGs, if you want to roleplay someone selfish, or even just someone relatively self-interested, then your only choice is to stop playing the game. “Evil” is apparently someone who helps others out of the goodness of their heart, but also occasionally murders innocent people for no reason.

        1. Zekiel says:

          This, absolutely. This is why Mass Effect made such a sensible decision by having Shepard canonically be a war hero who wants to save the galaxy, regardless of how she goes about doing it.

          And it’s why Planescape Torment is awesome because the main plot hook is all about self interest (with the option of going about it in an altruistic way, if you want)

        2. Smith says:

          In God of War 2018, Kratos’ son drags him into sidequests out of basic compassion, and Kratos rationalizes it as something they need to do to get better gear to improve their chances with the main mission.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I think the issue is with games that give you an explicit choice to do things that are evil, but give no reason to choose them other than to be evil. So there’s no reason to actually take them. This gets especially problematic when the choices are supposed to be morally significant or wrenching and the game clearly portrays them as such and yet there’s really no reason for any character to actually take the evil choice. If you’re going to force a choice between good and evil and present that choice as being wrenching, you had better make it so that the evil choice is at least tempting. And one of the ways to do that is to present it as the easy but morally suspect path vs the harder but more moral path. But if being evil is not only not easier than being good but is instead actually HARDER, then all motivation to take that path is gone and the temptation that is required to make the choice work as intended is lost.

      There’s also a side issue that relates to make one side easier than the other — whether good or evil — where if you don’t make the evil side, say, at least as feasible to play as the good side then some players that might want to play evil find that they CAN’T because they won’t be able to complete the game given the penalties for being evil. Of course, as I’ve noted before this also applies to cases where the evil choices gets benefits, hence at least some motivation for the desire to make both paths work out the same or very similarly mechanically, if by different means,

      1. ContribuTor says:

        An interesting point you touch on here is that games really can only judge player ACTIONS, but the interesting thing that makes a choice “good” or “evil” is INTENTION. Because the game can’t dialogue with you, or understand the nuances of your action, it’s effectively assuming your intention from your action. And, sort of by necessity, does it in very basic terms.

        You’ve just rescued some kidnapped townsfolk from a raider clan and disabled their leader. You can shoot the clan leader, or bring them to the authorities, or let them go. Many games would assume “shoot the clan leader!” is an evil choice, where “bring them to justice” is unequivocally good, and “letting them go” would depend on whether the game frames it as a merciful choice or letting them off scot free. You either did good, or did evil.

        But if this was a tabletop session, you’d have a whole conversation about this. Maybe this leader is just too dangerous – he’s built up a huge power base in the region, and they do a lot of bad things. The only way to end his reign of terror is to kill him. But maybe he’s a bad dude, but he has at least some shred of a code of honor that reigns him in, and whoever takes over will likely be worse (maybe much worse)Maybe the local authorities are weak, and might let him go with a slap on the wrist. Or can be bribed. Or that the jail just isn’t strong enough to hold off 100 determined raiders. Maybe taking him to the authorities is basically no better than letting him go. Or, really, worse – it will set local authorities up for a confrontation they can’t handle, which might destroy the fragile hold of law and order. And for “let him go,” maybe the tribe values strength above all things, and by showing him mercy you expose weakness that makes it a sure thing the clan will kill him. And, if so, maybe they’ll put someone equally bad or worse in charge. Or maybe you think it will ignite a civil war in the survivors that will tear the clan apart.

        I would expect you could (depending on the exact circumstances) argue all three options are potentially the “good” option, and all three are potentially the “evil” option. The distinction isn’t born from “which action did you take,” bur rather “what result did you intend, and what level of risk were you ok in taking to achieve that result?”

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          The standard answer to this one is reputation instead of alignment. The game’s not deciding you’re a good person, it’s that the local government/gang/cult things you’re a good person.

  17. Bubble181 says:

    I think many people want to be able to play as “Evil” – especialyl the violent nihilistic uncontrolled “bad guy” it often turns out to be in games – just because of that.
    Lots of people are kind/friendly/polite/correct in everyday life, and want to act out in games. If my boss has sh*it all over my head, I can go home and be unpleasant in turn to my wife because I’m frustrated, *or* I can take it out by being a jackass and killing the orphans and stealing their heirlooms instead of being the goody-two-shoes who saves all of them and their pet rock.

    After all, most people will happily play a “good guy” who murders and slaughters his way through thousands of demons/skeletons/whatever. Being allowed to say “f*ck you” to your commander, or be spiteful, or tell someone off instead of always having to The Right Thing is more of the same.

    As for me, I’m an absolute Lawful Good bore in real life; in books and games I tend to like well-thought-out evil better. Too bad it’s usually just inconsistent and illogical.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Yeah, this makes sense but it doesn’t seem to apply very much in RPGs where apparently gamers seem to overwhelmingly pick the good path. I mean, I do. Probably because it’s almost always more narratively satisfying.

      Conversely in games like GTA, everyone runs over grannies because it’s fun.

      1. Syal says:

        I mean I always picked fights with guards in Morrowind, because they’re high level foes and it’s fun to fight them. It doesn’t lock you out of quests, and there was a bug that let you fight them without getting bounty, so I always did it, good route or no.

        The problem with RPG Evil options is that it’s usually not offering anything different from the Good options; the Good route will have you fight your way through the Evil army, and the Evil route has you fight your way through the roughly equivalent Good army. So you’re doing the same thing either way, picking sides based entirely on who you like more, and of course you like the Good guys more, that’s what makes them the Good guys.

        To try to encourage Evil playthroughs you’d have to reverse the ordinary power dynamic; make the Evil characters the underdogs, while the Good guys have the superior numbers and skill. It’d probably have to be a superweapon story, where the Evil guys are trying to find the Grand Gumdrop that will let them overwhelm the armies of the world, and you have to stop them while they’re still a bunch of whiny losers. Or for the Evil route you can turn around and fight the armies of the world all on your lonesome, holding everyone off while the baddies retrieve the Grand Gumdrop.

        …and even then I think everyone’s going to pick the Good option the first time through; it’s the “canon” playthrough, where you help the most likable characters.

  18. Also Tom says:

    Side note: there are two big problems with RPG morality systems.
    The first, as gone over before, is that the “evil” path seems to frequently involve going out of your way to drown a sack of puppies for no good reason. For one of the most egregious examples of this, see Thane’s loyalty quest in ME2. At one point, you talk to someone Thane used to know in order to find out who hired his son for an assassination. Later, after you interrogate the guy, he asks you who ratted him out.
    Bear in mind, the entire purpose of going on this mission is to get Thane fully on-side for the overall “fight the Collectors” mission. This guy is a minor crime lord on the Citadel. He offers you nothing in exchange for this information, and telling him who ratted him out would realistically affect Thane’s loyalty to you.
    And for some reason, the Renegade (aka, what is supposedly the “pragmatic, get the mission done at all costs” path) option is not to say “not happening” rudely instead of politely, but is instead to rat the guy out. This…makes no sense, and because the game tends to reward maxing out one or the other rather than a mixture of both, players who don’t want to be petty moronic jerks will end up going Paragon.
    Relatedly, most games have it where there are few to no rewards for playing a more neutral path, with all of the real goodies concentrated towards one end of the spectrum or the other. Occasionally you’ll get situations where choosing a neutral path gives you more versatility, but usually it’s not enough to balance out the power you get from going all one way or the other. (Looking at you, KOTOR)
    Mass Effect: Andromeda actually handled this really well: it didn’t have a “morality system,” instead, the dialogue was classified based on personality types, and the choices given you didn’t have color coding to tell you what was good and what was bad. That was purely up to you.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Fallout 3 had explicit rewards for having neutral Karma. It also served as a demonstration of why more games don’t do that (including Fallout 4, which ditched Karma entirely). It’s bad enough when you can think “I can pet 5 dogs to make up for that candy bar I stole earlier,” but ending up in situations where you’re thinking “I need to go pet exactly 2 of those 5 dogs because I stole too many candy bars but don’t want to overshoot the mark” just really lays bare how artificial the whole thing is, even if you were trying to just roll with it. It’s at its worst when your character’s allowed to make huge moral decisions that can push you in a given direction on their own. Are you going to genocide the Wasteland or purify the Wasteland’s water? Either way, Butch DeLoria probably won’t approve.

      Neutral characters and options in particular call attention to the fact that morality points simply don’t line up with how most people think about morality. From the same game, you have the character Jericho, a former raider and possible attempted rapist, who won’t join up with you unless you’re evil enough. Because opportunities for negative karma are so thin in the early game, one of the easiest ways to get him in your crew is to call a girl fat in high school. This isn’t any less absurd than the neutral example, but unlike the neutral example, if you want to wander off and be a jerk for awhile until you hit his threshold “naturally” you can do it. Rewarding the “neutral” decision on a point scale means reminding the player that there is a point scale.

      There are ways I could imagine a neutral reward working but for various reasons it would require a game with morality systems that work differently from basically every game I’ve ever played.

  19. Nemryn says:

    In fact, this recording is Alex’s idea. He can see his sister is changing. Her personality is shifting. This, combined with the fact that her memory is constantly being wiped, creates a certain danger for Alex. He knows that one of these days Morgan might wake up and see him as an enemy. This recording is his way of avoiding that. If she ever turns on him, he can point her to this recording and show that she’s just as culpable as he is.

    It also boils down to essentially “Yeah, well, it’s not like you’re any better, so nyeah,” which makes it another way of deflecting and dodging responsibility. Alex might not be as blatantly monstrous as Past Morgan, but he’s far from blameless, and seeing him as an enemy would be entirely justified.

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