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Thread: Bad moral in Bioshock?

  1. #1

    Bad moral in Bioshock?

    To be honest I did not think of this until I heard a talk from my favorite gamedeveloper talker Jonathan Blow in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0kup_anLeU

    He is talking about how badly done the moral "dilemma" in Bioshock is. And when replaying Bioshock now I agree with him, even though I love the game. The basic criticism is that it does not really matter if you harvest or save the girls, you will get about identical reward as a player what ever you choose in the end (I would even argue you get slightly better rewards for rescuing them).

    I would actually like it if they dared to go a step further and really make the player who wants to sacrifice himself for the little sisters by rescuing them instead of taking their adam to feel like it really was a sacrifice on your part for their life. Maybe you could get a little bit of adam but very very much less then if you just killed her to make you more powerful. Maybe just 1/5 or even 1/10 of the regular amount. Maybe later in the game you would really have to think hard as your further survival in the game would be extremely hard if you did not sacrifice at least one of the kids for you to be more powerful.. it would be so much more involving this way. What are your thoughts?
    If Infinite is going to have similair moral dilemmas I really hope they will be more brave in this area.

  2. #2
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    I agree with you to some extent, to make the choice harder they would have to make good much less viable, however this makes the game play very limited. If you make it so much harder to be good then people who aren't experts at the game will find there options limited. Although a little more variation would be nice I think there is enough in the game to make a difference in game while still giving you the freedom to choose based on moral values.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Atlas- View Post
    I agree with you to some extent, to make the choice harder they would have to make good much less viable, however this makes the game play very limited. If you make it so much harder to be good then people who aren't experts at the game will find there options limited. Although a little more variation would be nice I think there is enough in the game to make a difference in game while still giving you the freedom to choose based on moral values.
    I can somewhat see your point but I think that is another thing that I agree with Jonathan on, the fact that most games wants to "suck up" to the player and make them feel good and safe. They sacrifice the beliviability and in some way the real moral of the game because of wanting to make the player feel good about themselves. That is kind of weak and the more I think about it the more I agree that this is something games have to go past to be taken really seriously and not just bland brainless entertainment. On top of that I actually think many players would actually appritiate this more fresh approatch and for me personally it would just give the gameplay much more depth if I feelt it really tied into the context of the world I play in.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by mileafly View Post
    I can somewhat see your point but I think that is another thing that I agree with Jonathan on, the fact that most games wants to "suck up" to the player and make them feel good and safe. They sacrifice the beliviability and in some way the real moral of the game because of wanting to make the player feel good about themselves. That is kind of weak and the more I think about it the more I agree that this is something games have to go past to be taken really seriously and not just bland brainless entertainment. On top of that I actually think many players would actually appritiate this more fresh approatch and for me personally it would just give the gameplay much more depth if I feelt it really tied into the context of the world I play in.

    Moral Choices have consequences. What can they do to you in a game you can simply 'shut off' and walk away from?
    Game company will have a 'dog' of a game that wont really sell to most people.

    They can make the game more difficult, denying you assets for not picking the 'wrong' choice. They can alleviate this by giving you almost as much/sufficent 'stuff'/rewards so that the 'consequences' are effectively none and they can pretend there was a moral choice.

    Different approaches to handling the same situations might be given (room full of NPCs to get past that you can either slaughter or sneak past). Player gets more choices of action, can play a purist 'good' if they wish, but no real consequences for following either the 'good' or 'bad' path.

    Moral Choices bringing drastic game changes (plot & situations) are also verboten because of the cost (you go to the 'darkside' and play a different role with whole different events). Players might like this because it offers more game experience, but the 'moral choice' is then a flip-flop done without compunction (and again game company most often wont take this path to avoid spending alot more money on a game that has an even shorter play-thru time).

    Emotional pains as a cost - do the right thing and you get to suffer instead. Every time you die there is a graphic/sound of you screaming in pain as your opponents beat you to death (preferable many options of ways so not to be repetative which can be easily be ignored). Players short exit the game and reloads a Save Game.

    For 'bad' choices have NPCs verbally accost you with numerous/incessant negative comments (Tenenbaums were virtually nothing). Games that 'nag' you .... yeah that will really sell. (maybe if they were really creative and had hundreds of variations ??? But if they are 'funny' then it defeats the otriginal purpose).

    Reality - your 'Moral Choice' doesnt matter and both consequences are bad. Game companies will go out of business trying to sell 'downer' games.

    ----

    So, real moral choices are things that game companies really dont want to/wont have, and the ones that hype it as a 'feature' are only pretending.

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    Someday, games will be very easy to make (think the changes the computer publishing software brought - now ancient history or unknown to the younger crowd) and there will all kinds of niche games where money is no longer the driving issue (as it is now). After discarding the 99% garbage created by the multitudes, the remaining games can offer real moral choices without 'selling out'. At that time, when comuter gaming finally matures, the players will have a choice whether to play a game with a 'moral choice'.

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    EDIT: Ignore, I didn't do a great job of getting my point across

  6. #6
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    I agree that Bioshock's morality system is very simplistic and flawed. Even leaving aside what others have said about the Save/Harvest-the-little-sisters system, the fact is that Jack is, by the nature of the game, an immoral-to-some-degree character, since Jack (when played by you) can only kill the splicers and not attempt to reason with them, or knock them out but let them live. Granted, the splicers try to kill you on sight, but as Jack learns, they are doing this because (a) they are controlled by pheronomes deliberately directed by a higher power (Ryan, Fontain, and in B2, Lamb), so their aggression isn't necessarily their own fault and they are not morally responsible for their (attempted) attacks on Jack (or Delta), and (b) Jack/Delta can attack the splicers on site, regardless of if this particular splicer might have turned out to be non-aggressive.

    And look at the way you (as the player) can kill Big Daddies for no other reason that your own personal gain (of Adam). Alright, so you could argue that you have to kill Big Daddies so you can rescue the Little Sisters, but it can be counter argued that you should look for a way to save the Little Sisters without killing the Big Daddies, maybe by trapping the Big Daddies away from the Little Sisters, or getting Tenambaum or someone to create a chemical that stopped the Big Daddies from being so possessive of the Little Sisters. Or just wait until the Little Sisters are in those hole-in-the-wall pipelines, and 'pour' the cure in there. But no, you can happily kill the Big Daddies, who are after all only trying to protect the Little Sisters, without the game classing you as immoral.

    I do think that you should suffer some penalty for harvesting or saving the Little Sisters. Say, if you save them all then you don't get as much adam (you still get the gifts of tonics from Tenambaum, tonics that you can't get any other way, but no Adam as a gift, as (for the stories sake) Tenumbaum is using all available Adam to cure (save) the Little Sisters she can reach, and you use up some of the Adam you gain from each Little Sister, as it takes Adam to Cure (save) a Little Sister).

    Whereas if you harvest all of the Little Sisters, then you of course get lots of Adam, but at the end of the game, after defeating Fontain, you have to fight a lot of Big Daddies, as Tenambaum is so upset at you murdering the Little Sisters that she's pumped a tonic/pheronome through Rapture that makes all Big Daddies attack you on site. And in this ending, you have to make your way back through all the levels to the starting point (the bathysphere that takes you up to the lighthouse), all the way fighting or avoiding the Big Daddies that attack you as you backtrack through the levels that you played through to get to Fontain.

    The story could be that if you've saved all the Little Sisters, then after Fontain dies, then you get the good ending video (which is beautiful), but it's mentioned at the beginning of the video that Jack gets Tenambaum to remove his plasmid/tonic powers as he believes power like that will corrupt anybody.

    If you harvest all the Little Sisters, then after Fontain dies, you remove something from Fontain's corpse, a book (or microfilm, or whatever) that contains all of the details of plasmids and tonics, Adam and Eve), and you decided to go back topside and use it to make your fortune and control the world. So you have to go back to the Bathysphere, by backtracking over all of the levels again, but the Big Daddies in each level are now out to get you. When you get to the Bathysphere then the 'bad' ending video plays, where you see Jack become THE world leader, as his armies of super soldiers, all genetically enhanced by plasmids and tonics, take over the world, kill countless millions, and rule the world with an iron fist. And at the end of the video, you see Jack, looking like Fontain did in the boss fight, as Jack is now as corrupted physically as he is spiritually by the plasmids and tonics that he wields.

    Of course, this begs the question what happens if Jack saves some and kills the rest of the Little Sisters. You could either have a compromise, where there's a third option on top of the all-good and all-bad endings, but that would be very simplistic, as it doesn't seem right that you'd get the same ending for harvesting one Little Sister and saving eleven, as you'd get for Harvesting eleven and saving one, you'd really need either several more morally-grey endings, or you could have it so that Jack can only save or harvest ALL of the Little Sisters, i.e. when at the beginning of the game, Tenambaum throws down the ability to save/harvest the Little Sisters, she warns him to be careful to save the Little Sister, as whatever he does will configure the genetic link of a Little Sister's Adam to his own metabolism, and the first way he uses the kill/harvest plasmid will dictate the only way he can draw Adam from any other Little Sisters.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by JDoran2012 View Post
    I agree that Bioshock's morality system is very simplistic and flawed. Even leaving aside what others have said about the Save/Harvest-the-little-sisters system, the fact is that Jack is, by the nature of the game, an immoral-to-some-degree character, since Jack (when played by you) can only kill the splicers and not attempt to reason with them, or knock them out but let them live. Granted, the splicers try to kill you on sight, but as Jack learns, they are doing this because (a) they are controlled by pheronomes deliberately directed by a higher power (Ryan, Fontain, and in B2, Lamb), so their aggression isn't necessarily their own fault and they are not morally responsible for their (attempted) attacks on Jack (or Delta), and (b) Jack/Delta can attack the splicers on site, regardless of if this particular splicer might have turned out to be non-aggressive.

    .
    The pheromone control might be too simple to control like 'Attack the Guy seen on the TV right now". It may have just removed their aggressions to stop them from killing people (The Novel goes into them being crazy enough to kill anyone on sight). Ryan, after all, wanted to restore his City and needed to get things operating again.

    Anyway, early in BS1, Ryan offers a 1000 ADAM bounty for anyone who gets Jack, which shows that the Splicers need to be motivated other ways (The ADAM thing is still an addiction so is still a kind of compulsion)

  8. #8
    I don't really think they would have to do all this extra work. For me personally it would just have feelt better if they dared to go the more beliviable route and have you not get any or very very little adam by freeing the little sisters. I mean that is how it would be if Rapture where real and you where actually there. And it would indirectly mean that you would have to sacrifice yourself for the sisters, it would be kind of beautiful. And I actually disagree with this fear of scaring away players. I think many players want this, often when some game come out that do question and challenge our usual way of gaming they are celebrated for it.

    At least instead of the disappointing survival mode for the PS3 version of Bioshock this could have been a really welcome addition and challenge with this small (but huge) change in the game.

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