Developing a game where the choices the player makes has actual
depth in terms of consequences, moral dilemmas and pushing ethical boundaries,
is no easy task. Few games actually succeed in delivering any meaningful choice
options to players. Games mostly offer choices between quest lines, which NPC
to please most or which talent tree to follow. Divinity Dragon Commander, from Larian Studios, is all about stopping players dead in their
tracks with the weight of choices taken crashing down on them.
Swen Vincke founder of Larian Studios wrote a fascinating blog post about the role of choice in video games, and how they succeeded in creating a game where the impact of player decisions form the backbone of the gameplay.
“If there is one aspect of Dragon Commander that has
generated frequent discussion among the team at Larian it is the topic of
politics and more specifically: the political, moral and ethical choices you
can make in the game. When you are aboard your command ship, the Raven, a broad
spectrum of political and moral issues will be brought before you by a variety
of characters and inevitably, these characters will vehemently disagree with
one another at all but every junction.
What we also discovered though, and this is something we
considered important as designers, is that it made players sit back and think
about what decision they should make. Because the decisions you make aren’t
simply ethical ones. Dragon Commander remains a game and decisions influence
gameplay.That means that what you consider to be ‘the right thing to do’ may
not bring you the rewards you’d have liked.”
This begs the question, how did the Larian team go about
creating a game environment that would engage players in such a profound
“To do so we created a host of fantasy characters that
represent people or philosophies of a certain political persuasion… These
characters speak plainly. They speak forcefully. They hammer home their
viewpoint, often eschewing all nuance… by creating characters that often exceed
individualism only to become certain ‘types’, we noticed that their opinion
regarding various political statements were amplified to such an extent that
they became quite frankly shocking.”
What they have found is that “..it made players sit back and
think about what decision they should make. Because the decisions you make
aren’t simply ethical ones. Dragon Commander remains a game and decisions
influence gameplay. That means that what you consider to be ‘the right thing to
do’ may not bring you the rewards you’d have liked. We ended up with a game in
which giving your subjects license to do things that may be fundamentally wrong
on all kinds of different levels may nevertheless benefit your march to
victory. But, we’ll add that it is always possible to win the game by
following your own moral compass.”
Games provide a platform where we can explore human nature
in a myriad of ways. The only limits are the imaginations of the creators. You
don’t need fancy graphics or complicated gameplay mechanics to portray evil or
good. The trick is tapping into the inner dialogue of the player and forcing
that personal conversation into the game world.
This is exactly what Larian Studios is attempting to do with
Divinity Dragon Commander.
love to hear from you if you’ve played the game. Did the game succeed in its
goal to grab you by the balls and squeeze those hard decisions out of you?
More about Divinity
Set in the time when both magic and
technology were at their peak in the Divinity universe, Dragon Commander tells
the story of a young dragon knight who fights for the survival of Rivellon when
his father, the king, is brutally murdered for opposing the teachings of a new
religion. Six nations - the elves, the dwarves, the imps, the undead, the
lizards and the humans - must set aside their differences and unite to stop empress
Aurora from taking over the world. You can play as a Commander, Dragon, Strategist or an Emperor.
The game releases for PC on August 6, you can pre-order it here
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Source: Swen Vincke Blog
Check out this fascinating video about the
the Pitfalls of Politics & Ethics in Divinity Dragon Commander.
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