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Recent video game discussion [Jan. 8th, 2010|06:03 pm]
I've been playing some games recently, so I'm going to babble about them and some ethical situations they've presented. Minor spoilers. If I whine a lot about the games, it's probably because I've become addicted to Zero Punctuation.

The game I have actually finished recently is inFamous, a superhero sandbox game. Generally a lot of fun, but sort of short and some parts of the city design stretched my disbelief an awful lot, especially the el tracks that only circle a few square blocks. The most obnoxious thing about the game was probably the ending, which pulled a really stupid trick that made me want to turn a fire hose on the main villain.

One of the most important aspects of the game is it's "moral choice" system, where you have to decide through a series of major story choices and minor actions whether you want to be a good guy or a bad one(and since the most powerful powers are only available to those at either end of the spectrum, you can't sit in the middle). Some of these are actually fairly well done: the first choice is whether or not to share food in an urban ghetto with other starving survivors, or zap them and make sure that you get it all for yourself, and that makes perfect sense within the context of the game. However, there are some that are extremely obnoxious. The most banal of these was one where in the course of doing something else a random street artist stops you to ask which one of the two posters he's made you like. I ended up picking the one that was bright red and looked like a warning sign, despite knowing that was the "bad" choice. Why? Because I had noticed that it was actually often bad for the welfare of the random civilians to come up and take pictures of me if one of the gangs in the area suddenly decided to open up, especially if they brought heavy ordinance. Basically, being around me was dangerous and people should stay: an excellent rationale for a "good guy".

Perhaps the most direct choice in the game is when the villain makes you choose between saving the hero's girlfriend or six unnamed doctors. Now, I've passed villainy 102, and I figured out immediately that if the villain was determined to kill the hero's love interest, then there really was no choice, except maybe whether or not the doctors would die. I picked the six and sure enough, that was the "good" choice. After that, I went and read the plot synopsis on wikipedia, and sure enough, there is no choice. I read some more of that, and figured out that some of the most important choices really don't matter, besides producing slightly different cut scenes depending on whether you choose good or evil: the plot has only two parallel tracks it can run on.

By contrast, a game I've been playing for a while, Valkyria Chronicles, presents one of the most unusual reactions to a wartime action I think I've ever seen in a game. The enemy has this magical super soldier that is tearing up your army, and the hero's best friend figures out that his side can have one, but he has to wound the hero's love interest to get it. Well, he does just that...and at least so far, the game almost completely condemns his actions(I haven't finished it yet, some of the final missions are obnoxiously difficult). He saves hundreds if not thousands of his own soldiers and it leads to a major victory(and he doesn't actually kill anyone!), and not just the hero, but the authorities in general seem to think that he belongs in jail. It's...well, the game itself is often overly sappy and idealistic, but that was the part where I was exclaiming at the TV about the stupidity.

I've just started playing Fallout 3, and so far the conversation choices presented in that game aren't exactly wowing me with their originality. It seems extremely odd to me that a character that has been a day or two out of the vault would have their "neutral option" often be asking for money in some way: that even in the first town many of the responses seem like they would fit an experienced wasteland survivor, not a 19 year old kid seeing the sun for the first time.

[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2010-01-09 04:57 am (UTC)
Oh man, we just spent the last 10 hours playing Fallout 3. I'm mashing buttons and Em is making most of the conversation choices, so we're predominately on the good track. I'm actually shocked at how often what seems to be the reasonably good response to a situation has turned out to have lukewarm results. For example, we played the end of the vault section three times: first, attacking (and killing Amita's father to stop them from beating on her), second, sneaking past and ignoring the beat down, and finally, breaking in, stopping the beat down, but not attacking anyone. There was no real difference to our stats or stuff, but the storylines had pretty different results. Incidentally, it is absolutely worth it to beat down all the guards in the vault and take their stuff.

This same sort of storyline stuff came up a couple times in Megaton and I expect it to keep cropping up. For the most part, I'm not sure the alliance system is as fit in F3 as other games I've played, but then, our character is always picking the best goody-goody answers to everything.

You're absolutely right about the abruptness of the storyline after the vault, but then the other two games did the same thing. I can forgive the developers for pushing past the logical necessity of the storyline to get to the meat and by the time I was off doing other missions outside of Megaton, I didn't really care anymore.

I'm not sure if it's our character (who is some kind of science-thief-saint hybrid), but I'm finding all my interactions out in the wastes to be very difficult. We're trying to deliver that letter to that town in the north and I just stopped playing after getting aced on my third attempt to cross the wastes on foot. We also spent a really long time on the ant mission for the same reason.

I'm kind of looking forward to replaying it with an evil tanking character.
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[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2010-01-09 05:57 am (UTC)
It occurs to me after thinking about this post for an hours that the driving reason I don't care about F3 not paying attention to the age/alien thing is that I don't really care at all about the main character's father. Especially once that mission got buried in the pile of 5 or 6 other missions. This feeling is partially because I don't feel connection or compassion to him on account of him peacing out and upending my safe-happy lifestyle, and partially because as a player, I've always been more interested in world exploration and side questing than following the main storyline.
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2010-01-09 07:00 am (UTC)
Holy cow, we're actually playing a game AT THE SAME TIME? Crazy.

Really, everything in Vault 101 felt very disjointed to me, and I had a hard time coming up with a coherent character. I also sort of ended up with a weird hybrid, with my chosen skills being Medicine, Repair, and Lockpicking.

I actually did the mission where you deliver the letter to the town NW of Megaton. I was really impressed, because while there were complications(obviously), the mission didn't turn out at all the way I expected, for the good.
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[User Picture]From: rianwyn
2010-01-09 04:02 pm (UTC)
Dude- I'm really enjoying this game. My gut reaction is to yell at Nathan to steal all the [worthless, crappy] things when we break into people's houses, but for some reason he's negative on that.

But, yes, in dialogue I always just want to be really nice. Even to the annoying kid in Ant-town. I don't care if he gets a home... but I think we'll end up with more points if we do.

And... I, too, want to be a badass for the 2nd runthrough.

I like this game.
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