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Divinity Dragon Commander: A game about consequences

by Han Cilliers (Lola)  Posted Tuesday, July 09, 2013 10:46:38 AM

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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.

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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.”

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This begs the question, how did the Larian team go about creating a game environment that would engage players in such a profound manner?

“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.”

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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.

We would 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 Dragon Commander

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.

Han’s Twitter | Blog / MWEB GameZone Twitter | Facebook

Other News from Around the 'Net:

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd



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