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Feature: Finding The Gray Area In Moral Choices

2K Marin creative director Jordan Thomas explains how BioShock 2 tried to present a moral gray area in terms of player choice, and how he thinks t
While the original BioShock was a critical smash for Irrational Games, critics did realize that the moral choices that were so central to the game were black and white -- either a player would choose to be good or evil. Kill a little sister or let her live. But game designers are realizing that there is a grey area that resides in between good and evil. Jordan Thomas, creative director at BioShock 2 developer 2K Marin explained where he thought the original game fell short in terms of choice. "[BioShock] chose a very binary set out outputs at the far end," he said in a new Gamasutra feature. "The players who enjoyed that were those who kind of were those who felt that they were embodying a moral extreme anyway -- there was a sort of cogency between what they chose and the outcomes they received. The ones who were less satisfied felt that they were morally more grey, or granular, and as such neither of the endings of that game reflected them well." In the case of BioShock 2, the solution was to strive for moral choices that were a bit harder to read as obviously good or evil. "BioShock 2 is, at best, a modest stride forward in the shooter space in the introduction of some RPG-like branching moral choices through the filter of parenthood," said Thomas. He continued, "Our choice there was to refract rather than reflect. Your choices have a strong effect on your legacy, but your sense of powerlessness over that legacy once it kind of decouples from you was in many ways the point." For more from Thomas on moral choices in video games, and for commentary from Fallout 3 lead designer Emil Pagliarulo, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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