How would you make a morality/character alignment system?
Okay, what function do morality/character alignment systems perform?
They usually control:
1. What powers the characters can get/have
2. What choices the player is capable of making
3. Other characters/enemies reactions to the player
4. What ending you get
One common drawback is they’re frequently a sliding scale from good to evil, with more powerful benefits as you’re further down one end of the scale, at which point it’s worth asking why they don’t just lock you into one choice at the beginning of the game since they clearly don’t want you to switch mid-way or mix and match. Mass Effect lets you mix and match at any time, sometimes to the other one’s exclusion though, and if you weren’t building up points for one from early into the game, you’ll get locked out of choices later on.
Morality systems differ a lot in impact across various games. Shadow the Hedgehog has a complete branching tree of levels that are traveled based on morality, with a good, bad, and sometimes neutral objective in every level. Dishonored has the levels change based on “chaos” level, with a net additive effect across levels. Some SMT games like Strange Journey have a synergy effect between demons if they have the same alignment. Undertale has practically a whole different campaign for genocide versus pacifist (weak example compared to the others, I know). Demon’s souls has character and world tendency.
So what type of system would I make? I don’t really know. It’s not the type of thing I’d include in the first place honestly. I’d probably make up hokey alignments like the ones on the alignment chart below that a friend of mine (clarencemage) made up for fighting game players. I lean towards a dishonored type system, except I’d have different outcomes for good and bad that made levels more interesting as suited to that playstyle, rather than one just making the game flat easier. Like have different enemies appear. That and if I went with a system that was just one sliding scale of good to bad, I’d have neutral with unique things showing up in the middle, or some type of special reward for players who mix it up and end up neutral, or who swing all the way from one alignment to the other. I also really like the shadow the hedgehog approach, it’s just cool.
Maybe I’d go full D&D and have a grid of 9 alignments. Have power upgrade trees for each of them, when you get enough points to shift alignments, you lose your greater powers, then regain the ones appropriate to that alignment after a while.
What would assign alignment? Miscellaneous grindable actions (like every open world game)? Specific exclusive objectives (shadow the hedgehog and Undertale)? Sidequests? I really have no idea.
If I REALLY cared, I’d probably think about real world morality long and hard and try to come up with something that reflected that.