Beyond Good and Evil.
DISCLAIMER: The ideas in the following article are subject to change.
Beyond Good and Evil.
How does one become a villain?
Is it a line you cross? A singular defining moment that strips you of human decency, and plunges you into the darkness?
Is it a slow descent? A series of moral lapses that cause you to sink into the all consuming slime of depravity?
Is it a question of intent? Can one who commits evil acts still, in his heart of hearts, be “good”?
Or is “villain” merely a word? A meaningless label tacked onto you by society in an attempt to distill a lifetime of deeds into a single, simplistic summation.
We don’t know. We don’t claim to know. The only person that can truly decide whether your character is a hero or a villain is you. That’s the philosophy behind our alignment system.
Alignment systems are nothing new in MMOs, but they’ve been rather limited in the past. Often, they amounted to a glorified faction system, or were based on some sort of strange objective morality. If you did this, you were evil; did something different, and you were good. Worst of all, some games wouldn’t even let you change alignments. You were either incorruptibly good or irredeemably evil, nothing in between. That works well enough for a fantasy game, but comic book worlds don’t work that way. “Good” and “Evil” are fluid concepts, and some of the most popular characters in comics could sit anywhere on that moral spectrum, depending on who you ask.
Keeping track of all the moral ambiguities that a superhuman character faces every day would result in a lot of heavy handed storytelling, and would ultimately leave a lot of players unsatisfied. We can’t keep track of your character’s intent, but we can keep track of your characters actions! That is the basis of our 3-Axis Alignment System.
The 3-Axis Alignment system uses three easily observable qualities to determine what kind of person people think your character is:
Law is a measure of your character’s willingness to adhere to the laws of Titan City. A Lawful character obeys the law, and tends to respect law enforcement. A Lawless character is almost always a criminal of some sort, and tends to be dismissive of authority
Violence is a measure of your character’s willingness to resort to unnecessary violence. We’re not going to cast judgement on you for fighting enemies--this is an MMO after all, if you get attacked, you can always fight back. This is a measure of non-combat violence. A Violent character is willing to use unnecessary force on his or her foes, including killing captive enemies and torturing people for information. A Non-Violent character tries to avoid violence outside of combat, and is more willing to talk foes down from fights, or pursue less harmful means of subdual.
Honor is a measure of your character’s trustworthiness. An Honest character keeps his or her promises, and tends to avoid deception. A Dishonorable character is willing to betray supposed allies to get ahead, and thrives on lies and falsehoods.
These aren’t binary measurements; each of these axes is its own scale designed to determine just how Lawful, Violent, or Honorable your character is. As your character explores Titan City, your actions will determine just where you stand. A hero who occasionally overlooks minor offenses is going to be rated much differently than an anti-authority vigilante.
Stories in City of Titans will give you plenty of chances to define your alignment, of course. Suppose, for instance, you managed to secure a shipment of experimental power armor. Do you hand it over to the authorities? Do you keep it for yourself? Do you sell it on the Black Market? Or do you destroy it to keep such weapons from falling into the wrong hands? You’ll face choices like these throughout your time in Titan City, and your decisions will determine where you fall on the moral scale.
Of course, there is a fourth component to this 3-axis alignment system as well; one that you choose. What is the correct term for your character, in your eyes or their own? Do you consider them a hero? A villain? Somewhere in between? We will be using the labels you’re familiar with of course; the classic four point system of Hero, Villain, Scoundrel, and Vigilante. But we’ll also poll the community for new labels to live up (or down) to. Of course, if you’d rather begin your story as a Complete Unknown, that’s an option too. These labels color the city’s initial opinion of you, but your conception of your label might not mesh with everyone else.
One person might see a violent, no-compromises “hero” as the savior of his neighborhood. Another might see the same person as a bloodthirsty monster that murdered her friends in the name of “justice”.
An honorable, if somewhat violent individual that doesn’t trust the law, but wants to protect his neighborhood is a hero to some and a hellion to others.
And a law-abiding superhuman willing to trample over his allies to get ahead might be a hero to a public but a monster to those who know the truth.
NPCs will always have their opinions, but in the end, it’s you who determines what your character is. We just keep track of things.
We hope to have the 3-Axis Alignment system ready when City of Titans launches in 2015, but we can only get there with your help! So go ahead and pledge today. We won’t judge.
Austin “Cube” Lang, MWM Composition.