In addition, we skew missions so that the ones we turn on mostly reinforce the direction you're trending towards. If you're mostly on a negative path, we make sure you have plenty of negative-reward missions and have fewer positive-reward missions. Once you start walking down a particular path, that path is magnetic and you're going to have to work hard to change course. We take this magnetic approach because we're trying to give you more of the content you're implicitly asking for. This selection of missions also colors your world. The more you push in one direction, the more the world's characters and stories seem to resemble the path you're choosing.

Since the missions escalate in value, they also escalate in drama. If you wandered down the negative path in the first act with small choices, you're now making more overtly negative and unpleasant choices. Some players will see this escalation, realize what they've been doing, and change course. Others may embrace it.

As you conclude missions and get a couple of traits maxed out (positively or negatively), we trigger the beginning of act three. Those traits now run +/-1000, and again we disable the lowest-end missions and turn on a bunch of new ones that take you towards the climax. At this point, it's very difficult to change course. And, frankly, if you did change course the story would probably get a bit disjointed as we shut down the negative plotline and spin up the positive one, for example. That's because it's impractical (and expensive) to provide transition-buffer missions for every moment in act three. But that's okay - I'm willing to make that tradeoff at the endgame because I expect most players to stay on the path they've chosen so far.

The only thing left is the twist. The idea is that for each path we've constructed a twist that explicitly dramatizes your chosen path and highlights what would happen if you made a different choice. Let's say you're on the negative path, working for Jake Villain and helping him win the range war. The twist could be that Jake sends you and a posse to gun down a group of rustlers who turn out to really be one of the rival families on a peaceful fishing trip. The posse is made up of Jake's thugs, who know what he wants. Do you gun down this family in cold blood, believing that there is no way out for you now, or do you turn on the posse and protect the family? This puts your choice in stark terms and gives you one last chance to pick a different outcome. Importantly, this mission is probably the most violent in the entire game. This late in the story, it makes sense for the stakes to be high and for your choices to be dramatic. Had a mission like this appeared in the beginning, when your character's morality was less defined, it would have trivialized him or her by forcing such a powerful dichotomy onto you before you'd morally earned it. Now that you know who you are, we're ready to hold up a mirror and show you.

That's one way to do good and evil right in a game. There are definitely others. I think this approach gives a stronger dramatic structure, produces a more credible narrative and character arc, and gives the player an experience tailored to the choices they use to express themselves.

Now I just hope somebody makes a game like this. Any takers?

John Scott Tynes thought the Gray Jedi robe he found in KOTOR2 meant the game actually supported a light-dark balance as a valid endgame choice. He was wrong.

Comments on