If you're like me, you play morality-filled games as a generally good person the first time around. The second time, you experiment being the bad guy.
Stephen Totilo asked "Fallout 3" producer Todd Howard if he'd solved what Totilo called the "Han Solo Problem," where it's seldom as fun to play as a mix of nice guy and bad guy, since games tend to only reward only extreme behavior.
Howard claimed "Fallout 3" hadn't completely solved it, but "Fable II" designer Peter Molyneux told me last week it will be fun to play as a character with mixed morality in "Fable II" because it's difficult to be truly good or evil.
His team may have solved the "Han Solo problem."
"With Han Solo, how good is good? Can you get as good as Luke Skywalker? Even he wasn't truly good."
Molyneux explained one way he prevents players from so easily being swayed to being perfectly good when they play the game is through sacrifice.
"If you saw a family there and had to kill these bandits to save the family," he hypothesized, "you'd kill the bandits to save the family. If I said to you, 'okay, to save this family, you give up half your gold.' Would you give up half your gold to save the family? Maybe you would, don't know. The most interesting one is if I said 'to save that family, you must be horribly, grotesquely scarred and there's no way of ever removing the scar or the aging.' What we found is that far, far fewer people were willing to sacrifice that."
The result is that players are in fact playing with mixed morality. Call it the Han Solo style or whatever else: "Fewer people are true good or true evil and they're much more towards the middle," Molyneux said. "I think that's very interesting. I had to test how good [people would be]. With Han Solo, how good is good? Can you get as good as Luke Skywalker? Even he wasn't truly good."
Several times, Molyneux instructed me to not think of "Fable II" in terms of binary choices. The binary choices are limited to the short childhood section at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, I didn't get far enough in my two hours with the game to experience any of the gray areas.
"After childhood, it then becomes a lot more subtle and it's less about the good/evil choice and more about your choice, whatever that is," he said. "The way that I present it to you is not 'oh, please save me or please hurt me,' it's more about giving you sort of an insight into what this is and you do what you need to do."
The problem in most morality games, however, and crucial to the "Han Solo Problem," is that it's beneficial to be truly good or evil. You'll be more powerful, have access to better powers or some other gameplay device unavailable to the person playing in the middle.
"You're going to have the same choices at the end of the game, whether you play good or evil."
"Don't think that being good or evil will unlock different parts of the game that will allow you to be more powerful," Molyneux said in response. "Don't think that you're going down these paths that lead you to completely different content in either one. You're not. You're just doing it to be who you want to be. You're going to have the same choices at the end of the game, whether you play good or evil."
Plus, if you want to see what it's like to play as the other side, you only have to keep playing once the main storyline in "Fable II" wraps. The world remains open, and it's completely possible to go from a good guy to a bad guy -- and right back again.
I should note, though, that Molyneux is down on multiple playthroughs. "I'm going to say that I don't want you to play through this game twice," he said. People do play role-playing-games a number of times, including the original "Fable." But Molyneux found that confusing. "I kind of thought 'God, there must be a huge amount of this game they find insanely boring the second time you go through,'" he said.
I said above that I normally play video games as a good person. With my several hours of hands-on time with "Fable II," however, I did the opposite. I was an evil, cruel person who looked out for himself and murdered and lied to further their own gains. This wasn't going to by "real" playthrough of the game, so why not?
Look for how my trek into the world of evil in "Fable II" went later this week.
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