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We present City of Titans, a spiritual successor for the superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, being developed by Missing Worlds Media.
5,003 backers pledged $678,189 to help bring this project to life.

Beyond Good and Evil.

Posted by Missing Worlds Media (Creator)
128 likes

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.

Ambiguously yours,

Austin “Cube” Lang, MWM Composition.

Eric Nelson, Marcelo Cardoso, and 126 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. John Barefield on

      I can see you've put a lot of thought into this. That sounds really nuanced. I'd love to check it out.

    2. Missing avatar

      Joel Aelwyn on

      As for alignments, we did discuss the issues of having a 27-point system (with all the requisite names), and decided it was a bit much. Notice that the four-point system CoX had was listed as a *fourth* axis, not just four specific positions along the other three axes. So yes, they're related, but they aren't just different words for the same thing.

      Scott is quite right, the examples *would* measure up about on par along the three-axis system alone. They represent more or less objective criteria. But there is still the question of *subjective* criteria, motivations, and how characters view themselves.

      One last thought to leave you with: actions may speak louder than words, but speaking words is still a form of action, and nuances are sometimes better spoken softly.

    3. Missing avatar

      Joel Aelwyn on

      Regarding factions: assuming it works out, factions will react to you according to your past behavior. Or a bit more specifically, according to what they *know about*, *remember*, and *care about* of your past behavior...

      Those reactions will also (hopefully) not be restricted to 'fight you' and 'ignore you'. True, I always did sort of wonder why the reaction of Skullz on seeing my level 50 was to continue doing what they were doing, rather than turn white and make like rabbits if they thought I was about to do something, but really even that is just a baby step.

    4. Missing avatar

      Mark Mosiejczuk on

      Posted on my Birthday, no less. Nice present :D

    5. Missing avatar

      Mark Mosiejczuk on

      Not sure how I missed this update... *ahem* Squeeeeeeeeeee!

    6. Cybin Monde on

      Wow... that's quite an ambitious alignment system! I love it! It takes the fluidity that CoX had and really evolves it into something more sleek and sexy. Of course, it's also fuel for an even stronger case of alt-itis, not that there's anything wrong with that. I can't wait to play with this system!!

    7. Scott Corpany on

      I got to thinking about how my CoH main, the lovely lightning-charged LUNATICIA would stack up on something like this. Above average Violence - she liked to solve problems with her Electrified Fists, but adamantly refused to take a life (being a walking stungun helped make that easier). Below average Law - she did not care who signed the paycheck, so long as it cleared (which is how she wound up working for the Vanguard more regularly than Arachnos). Surprisingly high Honor - her income as a an asskicker-for-hire depended on a reputation for fulfilling agreements and working well as part of a team, and as noted above, she had certain moral lines that she just wouldn't cross for any paycheck (which she made sure to establish in her contracts). In CoH, she was a Rogue tending towards Villainous.

      And then I realized, her actual ratings on those scales would probably be identical to BATMAN, but interpreted totally different. Above average Violence, but not maxed out due to a strict non-lethal policy. Below average Law, due to a strained relationship with civil authority (and the fact that the Police Comissioner covers for him is a negative rather than a positive, considering the kinds of corruption charges Gordon could face). And surprisingly high Honor, considering the degree of deception built into his schtick. In the CoH-verse, he'd be straddling the border between Hero and Vigilante, precisely the opposite of Luna.

      So, yeah. You can definitely spin these traits a lot of ways. Neat!

    8. Patrick Arakel on

      I love this idea. I can't wait to see it in action.

    9. Missing avatar

      Kevin Winston on

      that is a REALLY cool concept for an alignment system. It's new, interesting, and can accommodate the kinds of attitudes that the comics will allow for - old style "paragon of justice" heroes, newer grittier takes on the genre, and things in between.

      I really like it. I may co-opt it for some tabletop games.

    10. Zoser - Phoenix Rising Cookie Guardian on

      Wow, I love this system because it seems that it will allow for heroic characters, who still do not respect the system because they consider it broken. The original Anarchy (Lonnie Machin) comes to mind in this context and I already want to re-create Vox Populi, my homage to him. :)

    11. Missing avatar

      Christopher Cole on

      I always love seeing an inventive take on an alignment system. The 1 dimensional ones tend to be boring, if straightforward, and two-dimensional systems seem to try to put a character at odds with its own morality.

      The three axes you described seem to be the best ways to measure Comic Book style characters while still not trampling toes on weather someone considers their character "Good" or "Evil".

      The fact that the three axes, as described, are largely independent of each other and the character's villain/hero status is fantastic.

    12. Missing avatar

      Dylan Durrant on

      Interesting alignment system. I was expecting a City of Villains launch alignment system, pleasantly surprised. I still think this will prove difficult to implement well, but I certainly applaud your bravery. At least now a lot more of my characters can fit in this world.

    13. Missing avatar

      Thunder on

      @Catherine and Astor
      Good and evil persons are "their own individuals" already... they're not robots or part of a common mind, nor are they good or bad because they're part of a faction but for their actions as individuals.

      Also devs already suggested middle ground sides based on violence, honor etc., various NEUTRAL shades of gray, so your idea of "I want to be on my own" doesn't make really sense, imho. If you act bad you will be bad... if you act good you will be good, if you act with honor you will be an honorable person etc., to "act individually" doesn't make sense as all persons will act like that with their choices in game.

    14. Eric J D Ruessink on

      I liked the Going Rogue innovation where you could choose to attack a mob but they wouldn't attack you unless provoked. I think they had a yellow bracket around them when you clicked on them. Not for every mob, but for some it would make sense to be neutral.

    15. Ridgid - Blaster of Phoenix Rising on

      How will these alignments affect teaming? Will they do it like CoH? Or restrict it somehow based on the TF/SF?

    16. Catherine America on

      Heh...one more thing. I like Astor Styne's suggestion of "...neither good nor evil, [but rather] acting purely as your own individual. I can only dream it would be called Unknown, both, or Ambiguous characters, or something along those moral lines."

      Possibly such an alignment could cause you unwanted attention/grief from those factions from both ends of the scale. This unwanted attention could be an opt-in setting that would provide penalties on resistance and defense, but also reward bonuses upon "defeats/arrests".

      In effect, I guess, this would wrap CoX's "NPC/foe color scheme" around CoT's alignment system, and would also provide a career-long, challenging environment for one's solo characters.

    17. Catherine America on

      Oh and generally, I really like that the proposed alignment system is NOT "do A" a bunch of times then "become X". Or "do A, B, C and D" and then become "Y". I loved CoX, but that was mind-numbingly simple, far too deliberate, and did not account for all of my character's actions/inactions up until that point. What you guys are proposing is much more overarching and immersive.

    18. Catherine America on

      [quote] 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.[/quote]

      I love this very, very much!

    19. Christopher Hooker on

      I... I... I...
      SQUEEEEEEE!
      ...this is so brilliant. I want this game, NOW.

    20. Missing avatar

      Brad Wood on

      Oh and alignment ideas to add to some of the below:

      Highly dishonorable, highly violent, highly unlawful: Anarchist - You just want to set the worth aflame and watch it burn.

      Highly honorable, highly violent, highly unlawful: Fallen Warrior - You don't mind violence and you have no regard for laws, but unfair fights have no honor.

      Highly dishonorable, highly non-violent, highly unlawful: Dastardly pacifist or Smooth Criminal - You have no regard for the law and deceit is a part of your DNA, but you don't like to hurt people, particularly innocents.

    21. Missing avatar

      Brad Wood on

      You know, one thing I have been impressed by so far is how passionate you guys are about this. Whether you all have the cumulative talent to actually make it into a reality has yet to be seen, but you're ideas are all in the right place. God willing you guys will give us one seriously kickass game!

      FYI, I personally would be okay with the alignment system just affecting conversation options in the beginning (a la mass effect or dragon age) as opposed to opening up missions, areas, etc. I don't want you guys to over-extend on fleshing this out and end up compromising on more "core" aspects of the game. So long as we *feel* like our character's alignment is represented and that plays out in our conversation options, I will feel like you guys have fulfilled on this.

      Of course, once the game is up and running, then I would really want you guys to expand on this and flesh it out. Keep up the updates!

    22. Missing avatar

      Eric Gama Müller on

      Great point of view!
      I saw that discussion comes to life in the mvm forums, and it was really well described.
      There will be an alignment system and there won't be a stuck label for your character.
      Sure it won't be easy to ponder when you are being trully this or that (+ or - alingment), but if all comes together at the end, anyone will be able to be the character more than just label him.

    23. Charles Braden on

      Um...yep. Geekgasm. If they do this right it's gonna be GREAT!

    24. Unjust on

      Great ideas. I hope that its not to daunting of a task to complete. If the alignment system is built to effect npc's and npc groups, as well as push you to alternate adventure streams (eg. Bank robberies, saving hostages, protecting a neighborhood etc.) or restrict you from some of those is going to be interesting.

    25. Missing avatar

      Anna Simpson on

      I like the sound of this!

      I have a question, although I guess it's one that might well not be settled, yet. I was a bit of a badge whore in CoX, so when a new Issue came out, I often had to cycle my main through the alignments to collect new red/blue specific badges. Are you envisaging having alignment restricted badges in CoT?

    26. Safehouse - Ranger of the Phoenix Rising on

      This is an amazing system. Its delightfully in depth without being too confusing. And it doesn't have the simplicity of CoH, which was a good system but I felt could be expanded on.

      It looks like I might be able to create my character and fully develop his story - moving from one side to the other, and then back again. But toeing the line for a lot of the time.

    27. Chris Kuminecz on

      I *love* this idea.

      My primary group of characters in CoH consisted of my main, and several alternate versions of him: his future self, and a number of clones of him (each created by a different villain group, by different means: vegetable-based pod-person, black magic doppelganger, android reproduction). Liberated before they could be programmed for evil, each of these doubles has a personality based on his, but with their own idiosyncrasies (android is motivated by reason more than emotion, pod-person tends to be more compassionate, magic duplicate is prone to aggression and indignation).

      In CoH, these differences could be role-played in interactions with other players, but NPCs and NPC contacts would always react to each of these alts in exactly the same way. The opportunity to play each of them through CoT's mission arcs, being able to choose different courses of action based on their personalities, and have those choices result in each alt being viewed slightly differently by the game's NPC population... well, that just sounds ideal.

      Can't wait to hear more about this system! :D

    28. James Kolden on

      Well, I like this. Labels become a little ambiguous at this point with 27 alignments.
      The meter of recorded actions, the 'measure of a man' as it were, is a good way to differentiate from the game of old, while keeping within the spirit of source material and genre of metahuman worlds.

    29. Pineapple Steak on

      Building off of Nonsensicles, this is what I've got:

      Highly Lawful, somewhat Honorable, not too Violent - Hero
      Highly Lawful, somewhat Violent, not too Honorable - Justicar. The laws were put into place to serve and build society. It is the only thing saving us from anarchy. Anyone found breaking them do not deserve mercy and you will make certain that their punishment fits the crime.
      Highly Violence, somewhat Honorable, not too Lawful - Revolutionary. The system has failed. It no longer protects the people it swore to protect. Someone has to fill the void left by the apathetic leaders. If they aren't willing to be part of the solution, they're part of the problem and need to be replaced.
      Highly Violence, somewhat Lawful, not too Honorable -
      Highly Honorable, somewhat Lawful, not too violent - Captain. The world if full of men and women that seek to help hold back the darkness. They are untried and untested. They need a caring and guiding hand to help them. You are the perfect liason between the neophites, veterans and the civilian world.
      Highly Honorable, somewhat violent, not too lawful - Vigilante

      Highly Unlawful, somewhat Violent, not too dishonorable - Villain
      Highly Unlawful, somewhat dishonorable, not too violent - Fixer. They have all of the connections. They get the wheels turning. If you need information, muscle or weapons, they're the ones you go to. They generally don't like to get their hands dirty though.
      Highly Violent, somewhat dishonorable, not too unlawful - Mercenary. You are the quinessential muscle for hire. For the right price, you'll do just about anything. You skirt the line, just enough to get the officials something to worry about, but nothing too extreme that will bring the full weight of the system down upon you.
      Highly Violent, somewhat unlawful, not too dishonorable - Hooligan. You're out to have fun, smash a few faces and maybe break a few windows. Rules and society norms for for the suckers that don't have the courage to break free.
      Highly Dishonorable, somewhat unlawful, not too violent - Scoundrel
      Highly Dishonorable, somewhat violent, not too unlawful - Rogue. The world is your oyster and you are here to take the pearl. Some people want to rule the world and others want to watch it burn. However, if that happens, all the comforts you are used to will go away. Best to walk that line.

      I am a bit stumped on Highly Violence, somewhat Lawful, not too Honorable though. I tried to keep it as simple as possible and leave it open for any class to fit into. I'm open to any suggestions.

    30. Ross
      Superbacker
      on

      This sounds good. When I first saw violence as as part of the 3-Axis alignment system I was worried because as someone that used to badge in CoH I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to "Kill Skulls!". But if this is a clear moment in the game where you have to make a decision in the storyline then that's awesome.

      As others have said, almost every update is sounding like a game I want to play. Good job.

    31. Missing avatar

      Warlocc on

      That sounds really, really cool.

    32. Flimflamberge on

      Actually, that's a point. I wonder what exactly the default labels are supposed to imply. Here's my take, if it helps:

      Hero - Highly Lawful, somewhat Honourable, not too Violent. For example, turning the other cheek on petty crimes is a little dishonourable, but makes you less of a bully. You want to help people, and terrorising jaywalkers helps no one.

      Vigilante - Highly Honourable, somewhat Violent, not too Lawful. They have a code that's more important to them than playing by the rules, but they're only interested in getting rid of those who've wronged the innocent, not changing the world..

      Villain - Highly Unlawful, somewhat violent, not too Dishonourable. This is the alignment of the 'principled opposition'. The bad guys with a cause, the ones looking to make a better world, in their eyes, even if they have to get there on a road littered with corpses.

      Scoundrel - Highly Dishonourable, somewhat Unlawful, not too Violent but probably at least a little bit if it's really in your best interests. This is the 'do anything to look after me and mine' alignment, for mercs, thieves, smugglers and so on.

      Uh, by 'somewhat' I mean 'moderately to highly'. And 'not too' means 'not likely to be all the way to that end of the scale, could be anywhere else along it'.

    33. Flimflamberge on

      YES. This is fantastic.

      I already know I'm going to play a low-Law, low-Honour, low-Violence swindler kind of character. Actually, Swindler would be a nice alternative label, since Scoundrel implies some propensity for violence.

    34. Undead Steve - Reaper of Phoenix Rising on

      Every time you guys post about the game and about your decisions and how you came to them, how you fleshed them out, I get more and more confident that this game will be amazing!

    35. Missing avatar

      Gorreci on

      Thanks for this. Alignment is one of the major reasons I stopped playing story-heavy MMOs, particularly SW:ToR. I loved the fact that I could be a 'good guy Sith', but I hated being constricted to either 'good' or 'evil' in my actions. I could either be a wimp/wet noodle or a complete asshole.

      What I wanted was a middle road, and that game often didn't offer any. I wanted a neutral Sith, one that would help people out if he felt they were worth it, but would hesitate to cut someone down if they crossed him too many times. This looks almost like what I wanted. I like all the shades of gray between black and white. Either/or is too extreme for believable characters.

    36. Titanas on

      I really look forward to the complete unknown characters and hope it develops into a 5th side where you stand for neither good nor evil, acting purely as your own individual. I can only dream it would be called Unknown, both, or Ambiguous characters, or something along those moral lines.

    37. Rawen on

      This sounds very promising, this, coupled with a decent/generous space for back story and the avatar builder will most likely increase my already strong altaholic tendencies. Hope we get a large number of character slots, or at the least the option to buy a great amount of them.

    38. Charles Black on

      I've come out from under my lurker-blanket, drawn by this flash of innovation. Eager to see how this 'feels' during gameplay. I also see this influencing my ongoing choices or evolution in character design and design has always influenced my approach to gameplay. Intrigued to see if you can make this a more 'reciprocal mechanic'.

    39. Diane Miller on

      Now this sounds fascinating. I like the idea of starting as a "complete unknown" and simply making what seem to be the right choices and seeing where I end up, then starting over and making "interesting" choices and seeing how it turns out differently.

      Do you plan on having some sort of scale the player can look at to see where they stand, or are you just going to let people figure it out based on how people react to you? I kind of like the second way.

    40. Jeremy on

      Definitely an interesting approach to morality systems. I'm looking forward to how well it gets implemented...I'm thinking the my main character will provably end up as an honorable villain of sorts. Scoundrel? Maybe.

    41. David Phillips on

      Term I'd like to see is Hooligan, or the associated terms Ruffian or Hoodlum.

      Basically, these would fall into the violent sort, on either side of the Law and Honor alignment scales, but tending towards the middle ground of Law, I would think. Hooligans/Ruffians/Hoodlums aren't there to break the law, or uphold it so much as they're just there to get their fight on.

    42. Cinnder on

      I agree. While I don't want CoT to stray too far from CoH, this is an improvement I can wholeheartedly accept.

      You mentioned faction systems in other games. Will there be factions in CoT? Will NPC groups react to you differently based on where your character is on these axes? And will that reaction have substantive effect (e.g. on what missions they give you) or just change how they address you?

      BTW, does the title of this update mean we will all have a talking pig as a mentor? :-)

    43. Brian Jarman on

      This is really intriguing ... It sounds awesome and I think will really add to the role playing aspect of the game. I am most looking forward to starting a character as "unknown" and then watching how he evolves through the course of his career.

    44. Josh on

      That is quite an interesting angle to take for the alignment system. I enjoyed the CoH version more than most but I am rather intrigued by this multi-pronged system. I can't wait to test it out!

    45. LoE on

      Now this looks awesome. While I loved the old CoH system between good and evil, it's good to see CoT differentiating itself a bit from the old game and being innovative.