As Misty will tell you with a sigh, I’m addicted to computer RPGs. Once I start one, I have difficulty doing anything else. Stats fiddling, exploring side quests, juggling inventory and selling off the useless cruft that accumulates — I love it all. In the 1990s I devoured Fallout and Planescape: Torment. I have a special weakness for BioWare’s games. In graduate school two friends and I played Baldur’s Gate II every Saturday for a couple of hours. Even now I’m finally working my way through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Recent BioWare games sort your behavior into two categories, usually Manichaean good-and-evil ones. Last night, as I was selflessly refusing yet another reward for risking my life to rescue someone so I’d increase my goody-goody score, I wondered why it’s structured that way. Why, if you look out for yourself, do you get lumbered with evil points?

In short, where’s my Objectivist CRPG?

Sure, Bioshock played with the Objectivist theme, but I want an all-out Randian game that rewards my rational self-interest. When I refuse to give away the rakghoul serum I’ve recovered, instead choosing to sell it so I have the credits to further my worthy cause, I should be rewarded. When the Jedi order tries to force me to subsume my will to that of their collective, I should be allowed to resist and carve my own path through the universe, protecting my ideas and ideals while respecting the property of others.

Now I just need part ownership in BioWare or Obsidian Entertainment and a good licensed property. Do you think I could get the videogame rights to Atlas Shrugged?

5 thoughts on “CRPG is CRPG

  1. This actually has potential for an interesting setup. Like, consider an Objectivist CRPG in light of the basic design principle that choices should be meaningful, ie, you should be choosing between two benefits or two penalties, not between a benefit and a penalty. Obviously the benefit of choosing the Objectivist way is the satisfaction of being true to your principles, like in a normal game, but in this one, the Objectivist choice is also the more profitable one*. So the question is, what’s the downside of making the Objectivist choice, and the answer is clearly “the scorn of your society”. So like in most games, the player gets more popular and lauded as the game goes on; but in the Objectivist CRPG they become loathed and sneered at as the game goes on. Finally, in the crashing conclusion they destroy the world and make a new society in their image.

    *Most of the time. There is probably an exciting dramatic scene where the Collectivist Government tries to co-opt you and say “hey, agree to tax all these engineers to support poor disabled refugee children and we’ll give you a cut of the profits”, and you nobly refuse.

  2. Given the usual “small band of followers save the world” structure of CRPGs, one of the benefits of staying true to your Objectivist view is that, even as the world scorns you more and more, you’ll start to amass followers who are also all about rational self-interest. You’d be a collective of individuals, working towards a common but not communal goal. Part of the trick would be balancing all of the individuals’ needs to keep them headed in the direction you want to go.

    You know, now I really do want to play this game.

  3. Quote: You know, now I really do want to play this game.

    Ah, the DM’s Dilemma! Nobody makes the game that you want to play, so you make it yourself. The problem, of course, is that someone then needs to run the game, and (since you made it) you’re the logical choice. So even though the game you want to play now exists, you still don’t get to “play” it.

    Having said that, you still could make a Neverwinter Nights module with scripted interactions that you could go back and play after completing the “DM automation”. Sure, you’d know the choices and rewards beforehand, but that’s about as close as I think you’re going to get.

  4. If you really want to get into this RPG making thing, in addition to NWN2, I’d recommend checking out Dungeon Siege II and Oblivion, which are known to have very good mod tools – you can do total conversions, and just treat them like game engines.

    I’d love to see your creativity applied to something like that.

  5. You people and your temptations. Given that I’m already deeply involved in one niche computer gaming community, I think I’ll avoid getting in another.

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