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Is that going to affect the world in any way for that player?
KF: Yeah, it'll affect your virtue score. As you're playing through the game, everything you're doing earns you virtue points. For example, if you bother to go off and mentor someone, you're giving up your time, so we give you sacrifice points for that. The person who's being mentored gets humility, kind of admitting that they need help. You can already see that there's a virtual circle there, a healthy relationship between two people, which is good for them; they're both leveling up their virtues, but it's also good for the game and good for the community as a whole, because this game is built around playing together and helping each other out. I think that's really exciting.
I'm curious to know whether you think positive or negative reinforcement is more effective when it comes to making people be good versus evil, or whatever, in games.
KF: Well, I don't know about good and evil...
Sure, I didn't mean for it to be so black and white -- let's say more virtuous or less virtuous.
KF: We very much go for positive. I'm interested in that pause on the keyboard when the player decides, "Do I want to be kind, or do I want to be fair?" That's a really interesting question that only you can answer about yourself. That's all I want to do; I want to make you stop, think, and go, "Huh!" and then learn about yourself, because games can do that.
Right -- I have never experienced that, but I have always thought it would be possible to have a moment where I really have to make a choice that I care about. But for me it's never occurred. I guess my brain has always just defaulted to whatever good path is offered.
I always presume that the game is created in such a way that I'm not going to be punished for a good deed; I'm not going to lose a whole bunch of stuff. I will eventually be able to beat the game anyway. So, for me, it doesn't become much of a choice. I feel like, eventually, there's got to be something; like, who do I save, my mom or my dad? [editor's note: this interview was done prior to the release of The Walking Dead, which does this kind of choice very well.] But I don't want to have to make that choice! It makes me uncomfortable. Do you have any thoughts about that kind of space?
KF: Yeah, absolutely. What we try and do when we give you a quandary is we give you three options that are equally valid. It's not up to us to judge a player; we're just there to make you think. So NPCs will come up to you and say, "Hey! What should I do in this situation?"
One of the classic situations is there's this beggar who's been beaten within an inch of his life. What do you do about that? Do you go for justice and say, "Right; I'm going to track down the people who beat this guy up, or do I sacrifice and get myself in debt in order to pay for magical healing for the guy to bring him back to life? Or do I go for compassion and go off and buy some medicine to give him a good, peaceful, painless death?" They're all equally valid, but which one do you think is the right thing?
Somewhat more complex choices like that are interesting. I think the iPad and free-to-play tend to try to address a somewhat more casual audience -- if not directly, at least they try to include them -- so I think it will be interesting to see how you can try to bring those players into the idea of these choices being something that you make.
KF: It's not that different to a personality test. Those have always been massively popular because people love finding out about themselves; we're our own favorite subject. I try and present it and think of it, if you're a more casual player, as being more like a personality test; you end up with the character you deserve or who reflects who you are.