The Virtues and Evil Characters

Discussion in 'Quests & Lore' started by Cora Cuz'avich, Jan 9, 2018.

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  1. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    I've been looking around, and I haven't found much that speaks to the question I have, so I'm asking it here: is there any information on how the game intends to treat evil PCs?

    I'm likely going to trigger the quest reset this weekend, and I was thinking of actually playing an evil character. The RP background of the character I've been playing in various games for the last several years has always had a dark past, but I've never really tried playing as outright evil. I would presume there will be disadvantages to doing so, but at the same time, I don't want to severely limit my experience later, especially since we don't really know much about episodes 2 and on. Has this been discussed by the devs at all? Would the game overly punish a player for being evil, or will it just be the same game but my Shroud is black and the Oracle is less of a fan of me? Or something in between?
     
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  2. Vallo Frostbane

    Vallo Frostbane Avatar

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    The problem currently is that virtues do not really matter. Good or evil has no consequences, and also between players there is no distinction or system yet to promote a structured conflict.
    This is not only bad for RP but for the gameplay in general. I hope that someday we can have real consequences for being evil or good, but nothing is announced yet or has been talked about in public.
     
  3. Datendrache

    Datendrache Avatar

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    @Lord British pioneered the virtues concept, which was groundbreaking in games in many ways. Prior to Ultima IV, we just assumed the hero was doing what they were supposed to by following the story. When Ultima IV was released, it created an entirely new paradigm where the player had opportunities to be greedy or selfish but were penalized. In fact, "Thou lost an eighth!" or "Thou will never be an avatar!" are ingrained now as a result of my surprise at playing U-IV.

    What I feel that there is a whole cornucopia of possible compelling stories based on not only the Virtues, but also the Anti-Virtues and Chaos. Many of which could have very seductive reasons for being "evil" or "anti-virtuous", such as "cast outs from society", "unfairly treated", "misguided love", etc. We often even overlook that the virtue of Sacrifice creates many monsters and causes the payment of sometime horrific prices. I believe it was Michael Stackpole of Star Wars book authoring fame and most recently Wasteland that said, "Death is an art form." (and got himself into hot water, but he's right...)

    The Virtues and the Anti-Virtues should be in flux, that the population is moved and swayed by their personal choices on a deeper level. Sure, I'm not virtuous if I steal that vendor's steak, but what if I save the life of a child that just poisoned the Avatar's companion? Or what would happen if the child was abused by the companion? What if the child was the son of the companion? What if I decided to let the companion die and set the child free but receive a special decoration for my house, but cannot receive it if I pick a more virtuous path? A true follower of the Avatar of old would never desire rewards for a rescue. But if a player in SotA felt they wanted to have all the things, they might opt to take this path and would accept a massive virtue hit that might take a long time to recover from.

    As decisions like this are made, I'd hope the Avatar can become a member of various NPC guilds that grant them access to more quests, and membership would have upsides and downsides. As @Chris is fond of saying, there should not be a benefit without a drawback, and asking about the benefits and drawbacks for being virtuous/antivirtuous is completely fair.

    I'm sure this is not a new problem to the team. As people in UO said, "Why does a Dread Lord get to be a Lord in 5 minutes of gameplay when it takes months to become a Glorious Lord"? It wasn't Lord that was being granted, it was being a known murderer, and that was fixed later on. So there's been thought about it before.

    My first reaction to discovering there was an item called the Shroud of the Avatar in Shroud of the Avatar was being rather perplexed. I thought "Shroud of the Avatar" was a metaphor for something like Death of the Avatar or Darkness Covering Virtue, not an actual item. And if there was such an item, why wouldn't it be in Episode 5 instead of Episode 1?

    The Shroud of the Avatar has the best bonus available for any cloak item, and now players wear it all the time instead of putting on colorful and distinctive cloaks or spider legs or wings. And it comes in two colors: Angelic White and Demonic Black. Which makes me feel that all of the "Good and Evil" comes down to that -- it's totally black and white. And, at least in my opinion, a rather boring circumstance with the majority of players wearing the exact same piece of highly obvious gear.

    And that's something that is currently troubling me-- if it is all black and white, then why have the virtue system in the first place? Why not just have a set of laws? (I believe this was explored in Ultima 5: Warriors of Destiny...)

    My hope is that the writers for SotA put a priority for "The Virtue System" in Eps 2 and free the black-and-white mindset and provide meaning for one's decisions. If we could have all of Richard Garriott's past explorations of human nature in Shroud of the Avatar, it would be a rich wonderland of thoughtful role playing. There's elements here, but I don't see it on the development roadmap or I don't understand exactly how its positioned on the map.

    Sincerely,

    Engineer
     
  4. Puuk

    Puuk Writer/Designer

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    If it's any consolation, I do plan on providing a lot more consequences in future content. The Outskirts scenes are merely the groundwork for the future. Once I'm done with the tutorial and Outskirts scenes, I get to move on to other scenes and adding quests to them. All three stories will progress, and previous actions (or inaction) will matter.
     
  5. Lars vonDrachental

    Lars vonDrachental Avatar

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    Well I would guess even if you are an evil avatar that has to suffer some ingame consequences because of his evilness you will have the possibility to change with some hard work your reputation. (e.g. by doing hundreds of less rewarding and maybe even intentionally most boring quests)
    Maybe some NPC will till eternity curse your name but I would think the general reputation should be adjustable somehow in the one or the other direction even if you need the content of one episode to redo you previous action and another episode to reverse your reputation.
     
  6. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    What I'm more interested in is how is it planned to affect gameplay? I realize that's a ways off, and I don't expect specifics. I don't know, I'm struggling to articulate what's in my head.

    I guess what I kind of want to know, is will the game design tend to encourage you to be good and discourage being evil? There's a difference between allowing players to be evil versus making it a valid play style. Story-wise, will being evil result in a "bad" ending? Or just a different ending? If being evil closes some paths to you, does it open others? Or is it going to be like a Bethesda game, where the evil path is the same as the good path, but you're just more of a jerk while doing it? Will we be able to side with the Cabalists?

    (I realize that's a crap-ton of questions. I don't expect a bulleted list of answers; I'm just sort of spitballing to try and get across what I'm thinking.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
  7. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    Currently, yes. I guess what I'm getting at is, if I decide, "screw the virtues!" will the game screw me?
     
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  8. Cora Cuz'avich

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    Right, but what is the drawback to being good? There almost never is one.
     
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  9. Datendrache

    Datendrache Avatar

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    Oracle: "If you knew your Lord was evil and has been sacrificing peasants to the Obsidian Order, but everyone in the lands regard him as heroic and virtuous, and you had one opportunity to slay him but the result would be your death, would you a) strike him down and face execution knowing you would be considered a vile murderer; or b) take the coward's path and let him reign at the expense of many lives?"

    ... Good has no drawbacks? It has very, very tough decisions.

    I'm not really sure there's many clear advantages to being "Good" vs "Evil" in Shroud of the Avatar so far in development. The main quest line has only recently been completed so anything going on here is probably just planning discussion. Some elements exist, such as if you aide "Chaos" you can get an extra statue at the end of the Virtue Book Quest.

    But in most situations, it's quite advantageous to be the bad guy, with the advantages given by good players to be less:

    If you are good, you won't be ambushing players for money. You are, however, more likely to be ambushed for money.
    If you are evil, you are likely to be surrounded by friends ambushing players for money who won't attack you if you help them; and if you are around good players, they aren't going to be ambushing you for money.

    If you are good, you are likely to give away more money to the poor.
    If you are evil, you are likely to get rich much faster.

    If you are good, you won't lie, cheat, or steal, even humbly pass on promotion or leadership.
    If you are evil, you will probably do whatever it takes in order to get more power.

    If you are good, you will follow the laws of the land, and that will likely mean following the will of your Lord which may or may not be evil. Consequently, you may find yourself doing evil.
    If you are bad, you probably won't be following any of the Lords or following the laws, and gives you great freedom because if you do good, you probably won't care.

    If you are good, the citizens will trust you or call on you to more adventures (more work to do).
    If you are bad, you will likely be shunned or avoided (less work to do).​

    My comments here aren't to detract players from being good or evil, but to suggest that the complexities of situations can make the game even more compelling. If you set your sights on a single goal, you may find yourself in more precarious situations where your resolve will be challenged -- either by other virtues that you may favor more, for compensation, for greater good, trade off for another perk, etc.

    I'll try my hand at a little game design to explain my thinking on how game mechanics could be effected by virtue:

    You could have a "Blessing of Iolo, Jaana, Shamino, Dupre, etc" when reaching a certain level of virtue. This may grant bonuses similar to the bonuses of Devotionals. Defensive, Beneficial, etc.
    And for players with a strong anti-virtue, they can have a "Blessing of Dolus, Temna, Nefario, Nefas, etc." that grants abilities that are related to their anti-virtue (confusion, surprise attack, damage increases, poisons,...)

    And these bonuses don't appear until the player has made a significant level of dedication to the virtue or anti-virtue. Once they receive it, it will be hard to change in the other direction, but easy to lose (for both, because evil benefactors aren't keen on lazy minions...) Like Crafting, it probably shouldn't be the goal of the game to have Avatars have all the Virtues, but likely focus on only a few that would ever be achieved.

    Bonuses and the drive players have to reach a goal is part of the questing and story-line, which can throw many curveballs to players that try to min/max their way through the game. For example, you may find yourself in a situation where to raise one Virtue level you will take a hit against another.

    I did state to @Lum the Mad and @Puuk at SotaCon 2017 that I did "click through" the ending of the Courage Quest only to do it again the next patch and be horrified to have a different and shocking result. This isn't a complaint about the result, it's joy, learning process, and the resulting drive to pay closer attention to what was in the chat box -- knowing that simply pressing each of the keywords wasn't the adventure.

    Sincerely,

    Engineer
     
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  10. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    Does that situation actually occur in the game? Where you could literally have your character removed from the game due to choosing the "good" option? If it did, I'd concede your point. But I doubt it does.

    When I say that being good has no drawbacks, I'm not speaking of self-imposed drawbacks or hypothetical situations that aren't currently in the game. I mean actual in-game drawbacks.

    I have thought of one example, though. In Fallout 3, once your karma gets to a certain (positive) level, you start getting attacked by Talon Company mercenaries.
     
  11. Datendrache

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    Okay, you are referring to simply does being good have a negative consequence in game with the current release? Generally no, with the possible exception of not receiving the Chaos Statue, and that probably has no virtue hit. There has been considerable talk about penalizing players for activities during certain moon alignments, although to the best of my knowledge that system isn't in game yet, and that would effect everyone equally. There was also a mention by Lord British that being negative in a particular Virtue might have an impact on Devotional bonuses. Both may still be possible for Eps 1.

    Hence my comments and concerns, to me this is an area of the game that needs robustness. Partially because of the improvement to the gaming experience, and in part because it is in many ways the heart and soul of the Ultima series and one of the most enduring parts of @Lord British 's gaming legacy.

    Engineer
     
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  12. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    My point was more about Chris' comment about not having a benefit without a drawback; there are plenty of benefits without drawbacks. It might make things more interesting if being virtuous had actual, in-game drawbacks. Maybe that's in the plan, who knows.
     
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  13. Cora Cuz'avich

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    Might also be kinda cool if you could align with the anti-virtues, and actually get rewards based on them. Maybe even anti-devotionals. Though, it'd probably be some sort of "bigger than normal buff with a debuff" thing, which I don't like, as it supports the idea that "evil stuff should always have a drawback but not good stuff."
     
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  14. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    Another thing that's popped into my head today (it look like my initial question isn't going to get an answer anyway) is how to go about being "evil." I'm not sure it's really possible. Cartoony Darth Vader evil, probably. I could go around killing anything that's killable, and stealing, and lie to everyone, and the game would see those actions as evil. But that's kinda boring. But I don't think the game currently (or will likely) support a more real-world evil. Like turning down a quest to save someone because it doesn't pay enough. Though it might be possible in some quests to go to save them, and be offered a reward by the captors to walk away.

    Would I be able to go into a siege and, for a price/reward, help the Ebon Dawn win? If that were ever an option, I'd start turning that shroud black in a heartbeat
     
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  15. Cora Cuz'avich

    Cora Cuz'avich Avatar

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    (Sorry, it's been a slow day at work.)
     
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  16. Datendrache

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    @Puuk @Lum the Mad @DarkStarr @Lord British

    Thank you very much for adding the Jack of Diamonds to the game! This feels to me like it is a leap in the right direction to building intrigue and has what appear to be very fair perks. I believe this thread can find some much needed peace now. :)

    Sincerely,

    Engineer
     
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